Unrequited: An Examination of College, Displacement, and "Hope"

While I was walking home from my class last Tuesday evening, I began to cry.

It had been snowing nonstop in Holland, Michigan for essentially the last 72 hours. Lake effect weather is not a joke - it exists, it is tangible, and it will not hesitate to bury your Dodge Neon in three feet of powder. However upon my exiting of Lubbers Hall on 10th Street that night at around 8:45pm, I noticed that the snow had stopped for the first time in what seemed like forever. Everything was white and silent.

I turned to face the building behind me - grand and lovely, the home of my department - and tears started forming in my eyes. I had some sort of realization or epiphany: it was winter, it was quiet, and I had just left the last creative writing course I will ever take at Hope College - not to mention, taught by the most influential professor I have ever had, Heather Sellers. All at once, crashing and noiseless, my creative writing major and thusly, my college career, seemed to halt.

For the past two weeks, I have been pondering my upcoming graduation. I have had a countdown on my calendar since the beginning of September. I have been eager, restless, always and ever annoyed and hurt by the institution surrounding me. I've been ready to go, really, for the past two years. But then, that night, December 7th, when one week from that very moment I would be at home in Detroit, I felt nostalgic and sad.

So I cried.

I’m not sure how to go about writing a conclusive, interesting summary of my three and a half years at Hope. Part of me thinks I should simply recap everything so that maybe I’ll remember. As a senior in high school in 2007, I never in all my wildest dreams could have imagined what would happen to me up until December 2010. Even looking back on my first year in college, it seems like it never really happened, like I made it up because I need something there to hold that year in place.

My freshman year, I lived in a dorm room the size of a postage stamp and slept in a squeaky, obnoxiously uncomfortable metal loft that I bought from Ikea. I had a roommate who was a dancer and we bonded easily on my black and white rug over stories about respective boyfriends and how much we disliked Hope. She, and the two other close friends I had made that year, transferred by spring. My sophomore year I dove into expecting nothing extraordinary, but was blessed with an incredible place to live and roommates who I clicked with instantly. Every day was comfortable and happy; I enjoyed where I was, I enjoyed learning, I enjoyed everything about Hope. I wrote my parents a postcard that October, which still hangs on the wall in our basement office:

“I’m really starting to like it here at Hope. It really is a cool place.”

My junior year I found myself faced with my college friends disappearing and a four-month period of serious depression and anxiety, two things I had only heard of and never really believed in before. I required therapy and medication; I hated myself for this. That quote that’s found on the postcard I gave my parents the year before became ridiculous. My therapist called my problem “situational depression;” merely being at Hope or near Holland made me physically sick. With the loneliness almost unbearable, I thought very seriously about dropping out.

I’ve been pondering going into detail about that year, but really, I don’t think I should. It was terrible, and I’m glad it’s over – I’m glad I got better. This year, I roomed with three people I didn’t know at all. As a senior, I found this insulting, humbling, and saddening – aren’t you supposed to have a set, close-knit group of friends at the end of an educational career? Mercifully it’s ended up being one of the best things for me. My roommates are phenomenal, interesting, captivating people that have kept me sane. I’ve come back around to a neutral ground with Hope, keeping in mind my editorship, my on-campus job, and a Central Michigan student named Mackenzie Swearengen.

So why did I cry when I left Heather’s class?

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with this college. Sometimes it’s too small and inclusive, other times it’s just right. Sometimes (perhaps, often times) it’s religious to the point of suffocating, and other times, it feels homey. Sometimes it garners discrimination – ask me about Dustin Lance Black, but other times, it garners understanding, like my magazine printing openly homosexual poetry that received only praise. Sometimes it’s hideous and strange, drowning in Dutch architecture and heritage, but most of the time, it’s beautiful, covered in pine trees, swaying walkways, and the smell of Lake Michigan.

I didn’t want to come here in the first place. I wanted to go to a larger, public University, and I came here primarily and firstly because my parents wanted me to. And even though I look back on my experience here with some disdain and discomfort, I accept the fact that I cried because I’m going to miss it here.

If you know me at all, you know how difficult that is for me to admit.

Thank you, Hope, for teaching me about modern English grammar, true vocal performance anxiety, and depression. Thank you for teaching me how to act when stuck inside of an elevator and also when shaking the hand of a famous author. Thank you for teaching me, in-depth, about the United States Postal Service, love versus lust, and the MLA databases. Thank you for improving my public speaking skills, solidifying my love for Detroit, and allowing me to actually connect with my mother. Thank you for introducing me to Lake Michigan in the summer, the fall, the winter, and the spring. Thank you for your incredible, impressive, shockingly candid English professors, with whom I am saddest to part.

Thank you for challenging me. Thank you for only sort-of welcoming me. Thank you for ushering me out with a smile and an embrace. Thank you, most importantly and above all, for giving me an undergraduate career that was not about partying, drinking, who I was friends with, and my reputation.

I always blamed you. I’m sorry, I love you, and I take it all back.

I'm not sure if you'll miss me, but I'm sure that I'll be back someday.