I should be studying.
No, really. I should. I’ve got an exam on media law and the history of drama tomorrow. I should probably be tucked into a Davis Library alcove covered with books towered up to my eyes. But for some reason, I have found myself here, attempting to put words on an impossible narrative, some incredible relationships, and the feeling of belongingness.
When I walk out of the Stone Center tomorrow I’ll have finished two years at UNC. Two of the best years of my life, my sophomore year being the pinnacle. Milkshakes from The Loop. Lectures with Bart Ehrman. A trip to a national championship. New friends. New family. Old friends. Tight family.
Often a year makes a huge difference; we find out new things about ourselves, grow physically and emotionally, deepen bonds, push limitations, and sneak outside of our comfort zone. And in two years in Chapel Hill, I have done all of these things.
I have hurt along the way and at times felt overwhelmed and stressed and sad and downcast. But the inevitable, irreconcilable nature in the power of this place — the people, the atmosphere, the qualities we cannot name — always calls me back in.
I hurt today. Not because of the daunting media law exam tomorrow that awaits me, but because I’m halfway there. Just yesterday it feels like I was moving in, holding back tears as my mom and dad and brother and sister walked out the door. Just yesterday it feels like I was sitting in Shelby High School with my brothers. Just yesterday it feels like the “real world” was far away.
But today I stand halfway there. With my family who have loved and supported me from 181 miles away. With some of those same brothers sharing a suite. With a freshly minted double major. With the real world knocking on my door.
So that’s why it hurts. It hurts to say goodbye to my friends and to a tiny dorm room. Sure, we’ll be back in Chapel Hill in a few months, but things will always be different. Pat and Paige won’t be here to keep me in line at the Daily Tar Heel. Will, Luke, and I will be in a new home, but we won’t able to harass passersby from the seventh floor. The basketball team will be excellent, but Marcus and Brice and Joel will watch from their TV screens.
But that’s life. And the beautiful thing is, I’m doing this in a place with the best people, who love and care and shine. In a place where passionate learners and meaningful teachers roam the same halls and call each other friends. In a place that I can, and will, call home.
“But it’s comforting, knowing that whichever direction I’m driving on the highway, I’ll be headed back to a place that I call home.” — My friend, and brilliant thinker, Kristen Roehrig