I drove slow through Ames tonight on my way home from dinner. I usually drive fast, honking my way through yellow lights and riding the tails of calm and collected Midwesterners. I never enjoy the view and always have my eye on my destination, usually home. I curse Lincoln Way and Duff and avoid them by all means. I usually take Mortenson or the highway. I know how to make a 20-minute trip down to 7 minutes. I know Ames.
Tonight, though, I voluntarily took Lincoln way across the entire town. Granted, it’s winter break and there were no students walking across the roads illegally or cars piled up behind a red light. I had a pretty straight, open road, which is everything I wished for while classes were in session. I passed the Starbucks I used to frequent with someone special. I approached Beach and quickly changed from the far left lane to the turning right lane into campus by the Maple Willow Larch dorms. It was dark. And quiet. No students there either.
I continued to pass Lied Recreation and remembered that summer Andrea and I interned at Main Street and worked out every afternoon there, sweating without air conditioning. We thought that made us survivors of some sort of unwomanly task. I curved around the bend and stopped at the stop sign staring straight at Hamilton Hall. I smiled and my throat caught on memories to which I thought I said goodbye. I turned right and slowed to a crawl as I arched my head around to look at the loading dock of the Daily’s offices. Countless nights were spent there, working harder than I ever had, developing a dream to do something bigger and better, and to always love what I did. I turned up the music, wishing it were something punk from my days in journalism. Instead Taylor Swift sang at me, bringing me down in front of Lagomarcino Hall and into my most recent past.
I paused, casting my view down the corridor of Lagomarcino that led to the courtyard that has a statue with classic books being read by a young girl. I always thought that was a good statue, something that could represent me. Lago is the teaching college’s building, along with MacKay across the street, and where I spent a lot of time learning how to teach, or maybe more appropriately learning to hone my teaching skills. Many of them came naturally. I met amazing people inside those classrooms, including a couple friends for the record book. A couple that helped me believe I am good not only at teaching, but also at being myself. That sounds stupid, but sometimes the truth sounds stupid. I passed Lago and let that part of me pass too.
I turned by the library and continued ahead to the big Christmas tree on Central Campus. Central Campus was designed by the same people who designed Central Park in New York City. Did you know that? Well it’s a small fact that helped me adjust to Iowa life again after moving back. When I missed the city or my friends from the city, I’d go to Central Campus, close my eyes, and imagine the same vibe as in Central Park. Sometimes it worked. Other times it wasn’t loud enough.
I passed Carver Hall a little faster because that always held my math classes and those are all just bad memories. I decided to turn right and glide past Lake Lavern, scoping for Sir Lancelot and Elaine, the swans of Iowa State, that are not really nice at all. Fair warning for newbies! I left campus via Welch Ave, swinging up the hill to park in front of Cyclone Plaza, the apartment building in the bar-infested area I lived in my junior year of my journalism degree. I was 21, enough said. I hated the girls I lived with but the memories with my group of guy friends – John, Josh, Anthony, Ross – came flooding back and I thanked God for the continued friendship most of us still share. Relationships change, but that friendship and memories live forever.
I took to Lincoln Way again going west, passing Hyland and thanking God for new friends. I passed businesses I profiled for the Business section of the Daily. I approached South Dakota, the street I live off of and remembered the first time I drove down it. It was the second weekend of my Iowa State life in 2007. I was adventuring out to Andrea, Alexis, and Jamie’s apartment in West Ames and thought I was lost because it was so far from campus. Really, it was just me acting like a small-town kid who never knew a town could be that long. (I know better now.)
I arrived home and parked in my garage. I sat for a minute, shedding a tear then I did what I did last time I was preparing to leave campus; I wiped it away, grabbed my keys and walked away from it and on to the next chapter. Sometimes it’s hard to turn the page from such a great experience and it seems like I have had to write new chapters a lot lately. There’s always something new to learn about myself and the world in which we live. It all sounds so “expected” of us. You go to school, you graduate, and you grow up. I did that once before and flew to New York and then I came back. I came back to Iowa State for whatever reason I told everybody. Looking back I think everything I told everyone was a bunch of bull only to make myself feel better and for them to think I had a reason to leave the big city besides rejection. And my mom kept telling me that “Bigger and better things will come” and I never believed her. But as I left campus tonight on my solo trip through memory lane, I know she was right. This next chapter is entitled student teaching. It’s the chapter before graduation and my first teaching contract. Bigger and better things did come and I could not be happier to finally realize that leaving the big city was probably the best thing that has ever happened for me. Even though it took me a long time to realize it or to let myself realize it.
I’m not afraid of the next chapter. I’m a good writer. It’s all about confidence and I’m confident I’m ready.