Driving up to campus on Friday I was filled with so much nervous energy. My stomach hurt and I noticed my hands were shaking (kind of like they are right now as I’m writing this). So many wonderful memories flooded my mind and I knew that coming back again would likely make it harder to move on. I thought for a second I should just turn around. I wouldn’t have to be reminded of what I was missing if I never went. But I was also excited! The familiar roads and sights reminded me instantly that I love this place and quickly, as I was greeted by old friends and reunited with my typical Friday afternoon routines, I fell back into a comfortable rhythm. I was home.
I felt like I was alive again. I know who I am when I’m at UConn.
And so, as I was watching the band rehearse early Saturday morning and remembering all those long rehearsals and early mornings, it became apparent that now none of that really mattered. The petty things we thought were so important just simply faded away. All that was left was a warm feeling. If it could speak it would say “this is where I belong”.
At UConn, we always say “Students Today. Huskies Forever.” And on top of that, when you’re in the UConn Marching Band, you’re part of a family. These values are becoming more and more meaningful to me each passing day. It’s really quite true! Every year, alumni return for the homecoming game. This year there were nearly 160 alumni band members sharing the field with early 320 students during half time. What a spectacle! And every person was beaming with pride. So you can probably imagine, the passion and excitement about being back was absolutely contagious!
Everyone was standing tall representing their affiliations by wearing their memories on their clothing. We collectively relived our college experiences by fondly sharing stories and connecting over our similarities. I was surprised and inspired to meet two alumni brothers of UConn’s chapter of Alpha Phi Omega, a National C0-Educational Service Fraternity, from the 60’s and 70’s who shared with me the lived history of our UConn chapter and explained that “in their day the fraternity and band was life”. I’m glad to see nothing’s changed!
It’s really quite stunning though to be connected to all these people. It showed me that I was part of something that’s so much bigger than the four years I attended college. I saw truly how influential these experiences were so many years later. And for those reasons, I made sure to thank each alumni I met for their contribution and commitment to our school. I know now that they really did pave the way for me to have the best experiences I could. For that I am thankful. For a day (and ultimately forever), we were connected and reunited because of our love and pride for our Alma Mater. There’s something about UConn and I can’t precisely put words to it but it’s remarkable. It’s unbelievably special and I’m so lucky! I was blissfully, happy. It was so easy to be comfortable. To be myself.
So, this is how I knew I was home: for a whole day, I couldn’t stop smiling. My heart was warmed as I was greeted with hugs and “how are yous” more times than I could count. I was boiling over the top with energy and charisma. I felt like my personality clicked back into place almost like a Lego once it’s re-positioned and re-centered. I could breathe again! Like really breathe! A full deep breath of satisfaction. Confidently and securely I knew who I was in that space and it felt good.
I’ll end with this quote:
“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
These words rings true now even more so than they did the days and weeks immediately after graduation. You know you’re home when you get there and you effortlessly feel comfortable. You can pick up right where you left off and most of your important friendships are salient enough to overcome barriers such as distance, time, or social media. And I am lucky. I’m lucky to be challenged with visiting a place I love so much because I know it’ll be both so wonderful to go back and so difficult to leave. I know that each time I leave and look back I’ll have learned something new about why UConn was so meaningful to me.
A good friend said it best. She said, “you can’t miss something if you never leave”. So, in the face of all my lamenting, a small part of me is appreciative for the opportunity to miss this so much. Because I know I can always go back home.