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Friday, May 1, 2015

Time Travel

Today I had the opportunity to travel back in time.  As I climbed in the back of a black Subaru, little did I know that 1 hour and 17 minutes later I would be 20 years old again. 

1 hour and 17 minutes is all it took to transform me from where I am now to where I was at 20 years old.  We parked in the Campbell B lot and within a few steps I was face to face with my previous home.  The walk down 23rd street took me back to the countless times I walked through snow, rain, and sun to class in Schindler Education Center.  It felt good.  It felt right.  It felt like I was back home-even 10 years after my graduation.   

Change has never been easy for me.  Familiarity is my sanctuary.  As change approaches, my body cowers in fear of the unknown.  My confidence is low and my anxiety is high.  Slowly, insecurely, and cautiously I emerge into the newness.  All the while my mind is racing back in time to my past.  My comfort.  My sanctuary. 

This past school year I faced a lot of change.  My confidence staggered at times and I would need to give myself a "Come on El, you got this" pep talk.  Next year I will face more changes, with still so much unknown.  I want my familiarity like I felt today.  Walking into Schindler was almost habitual.  While others around me walked circles in the building looking for their rooms, I was able to direct myself where I needed to go.  The building still had the same smell, feel, and comfort.  It felt like home.

I sat down in one of my past classrooms and instantly remembered where I once sat discussing assignments and projects with those who were in my cohort.  As my former professors presented their innovative research my mind was eager to learn, take in, and apply.  These were the people who taught me to be a teacher.  They made me laugh, cry, and drink.  They pushed me to my limits, rightfully ruined my 4.0 by giving me an A-, and complimented my performance.  My heart danced as I sat through my sessions, taking notes, asking questions, listening to others share out.  I was too school for cool.  I was home. 

During a break my heart and mind ventured out for a walk across campus.  The trees were blooming and purple and yellow tulips were flourishing.  Without hesitation my feet went directly to the places I wanted to see.  It was natural and tranquil.  I sat for awhile near one of my favorite places on campus and thought back to how I used to sit in that same spot reading, watching, relaxing.  There was so much familiarity in my surroundings.  It made me think about the changes that have occurred in the past 10 years.  Marriage.  Jobs.  Children.  Finances.  Family.  How can so much be the same when countless changes have occurred?  How can this still feel like home when I have been gone for so long? 

The answer came as I started my trek to the Mauker Union, 23rd St. Market, and the Campanile.  The years I spent at UNI were the years that defined me.  As a freshman I was timid and afraid.  So many unknowns faced me and my heart yearned to return to my sanctuary at 609 Walnut Street in Osage.  As time lapsed I no longer wanted to go home on the weekends because Cedar Falls had become my home.  UNI is where I belonged.  I grew up there.  I learned who I was and what I wanted in life.  UNI is where I met some of my life long friends and where I taught myself to study and be a learner.  I experienced failures and success.  I picked myself off the ground when I thought I could go on no longer.  It is where I first heard of the death of a good friend, where I was alerted during 9/11, where my heart was broken, and where I was when my grandpa passed away.  It was where I volunteered at Special Olympics, where I had my first classroom experiences, where I learned to become independent, and where I met my husband.  Each location I visited had a past memory that has brought me to where I am today.  So much of who I am is still the same as who I became during my 5 years at UNI. 

Leaving UNI was painful.  It will forever have a place in my heart and be a sanctuary to me.  It helped me to identify who I was and became my familiar place.  Sometimes, no matter how long you have been gone, places from your past will still be your home.  UNI is where my childhood ended and my adult life began. 

"Home is where one starts from" ~T.S. Elliot

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