Things aren’t always as you plan.
The NCAA Baseball Tournament’s Manhattan regional has given me the welcome excuse to spend a weekend in the promised land. Complete with crashing in the dorm’s guest housing, as though it was the late 90s all over again.
Today I took a walk through campus. Not a quick walk with a specific destination, but instead a meandering journey, visiting places on campus that I hadn’t seen for well over a decade. I walked from my old dorm along the paths I normally took to many of my classes. I turned and walked back towards the Union, through the oldest parts of campus, around Anderson Hall, and back by the spork, and to the dorm I’m staying in. It doesn’t sound like much. If you went to K-State you likely have a great idea of the path that I walked.
And it really wasn’t much. Some things have changed immensely, and other things will never change. There were no big revelations. There wasn’t a flood of memories that came back. At this point in my life I barely remember who I was during my time here. But I still have no doubts just how formative it was. See, when you choose where to go to school, you think you’re choosing a destination, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
You’re choosing the journey.
I didn’t become who I am now at K-State. I became who I was then. I’m no more the same person at 36 as I was at 24 than I was from 23 to 18. I not even sure I’m the same person I was two weeks ago, let alone 13 years ago. Our story isn’t one of a destination. It’s not about who we have become, but instead it’s the ongoing process of who we are becoming, and every choice we make… every path we venture down… changes what that becoming is. Choosing K-State wasn’t my destination, it was the first major choice in my journey.
And so here I am. Returning to that spot that I love full well, 13 years after finishing my work here. Life couldn’t be further from what I expected it to be. I’ve either forgotten or taken for granted everything that I learned here. I don’t use the degree that I earned, instead working in a career field that didn’t even exist when I was in school. I love that I’ve channeled my love of K-State sports into a hobby, and yet I’m sad that I’ll never get to take my child on a campus visit and pass on that passion. If I trace my steps back I see hundreds of places where I had a path to choose, each having led me to this moment.
Of course it’s not all just my choices. I can’t even begin to understand the consequences that opened and closed the paths from which I chose. I don’t know why, with serendipitous luck, some paths presented themselves, and why others were ripped out from under me in the most cruel of ways. I suppose it’s just the way life works. And we can respond to each path we take by choosing each individual tiny fork that presents itself just a few steps later. And while some, when presented with difficulty may choose to shrink back to adolescence, others forge ahead, never looking back from what is right. For better or worse, those are the choices that truly make us who we are.
And here’s where that journey began. The place where I took control of my own path. And ever it holds me with magic spell. I think of thee, alma mater.