Mutations (Reflections on Life)

Dear Howard: Reflections on My First Real Homecoming

Founders Library, , Washington, D.C. Photo tak...

Founders Library, , Washington, D.C. Photo taken 9 April 2006 with Canon Powershot SD300. Category:Images of Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This weekend I returned to my alma mater for my first homecoming as an alum. You may be thinking, “already?” “You do know you only graduated 5 months ago, right?” However, aside from the fact that my school’s homecoming celebrations are pretty much notorious, I knew that I missed my friends and that I needed a brief law school break. I’m not sure I really even have the words to describe the many emotions I would associate with the experience, so I’m going to be a little creative. Please bear with me.

Basically, all week leading up to Friday, I had been feeling like this:

The baseline pounded louder and stronger in my head as I went from class to class, then eventually to the bus stop, then from Union Station to the Metro as I headed back to campus. At that point, I wasn’t really thinking about any particular aspects of my return too much. I was just excited.

In the Metro station on my way back to campus, I ran into one of my friends. Of course, we stopped and screamed and hugged. Then it hit me. While hugging a friend that I had gotten used to seeing practically every day but suddenly hadn’t seen in months, I allowed myself to really feel what I had been feeling for months. I allowed myself to acknowledge how much I missed seeing certain faces and talking to people–how much I missed hugs!

As I approached campus and went past the CVS on Georgia Ave., the hospital, and Torrie’s Restaurant (which used to be Wilson’s and served food at the most random times), to my shock and surprise, I could feel myself getting choked up. Even on graduation day, as I came down that same street in my cap and gown for what I knew would be the last time as a student, I had not felt anything like I felt in that moment.

I walked past someone that I knew (although not very well) and said hello. “Welcome home,” he said. “This place hasn’t been the same without you.” Now as much as I love my actual, physical home, I’m pretty sure that those two words had never meant so much to me. “Welcome home.” So, of course, then I felt even more ready to cry and incredibly flattered, but I had to pull it together, so I began to sing this to myself as I followed the crowd up the hill to the Yard:

When I was in undergrad (still can’t fully believe I get to say that in the past tense, but I’ll get used to it eventually) people always said that homecoming wasn’t for the current students; it was for the alumni. And technically, I knew they were right. It’s not really a “homecoming” for current students because current students are already home. Now, however, I finally understand what it all means.

I understand the people who wait all year for that weekend, who coordinate their schedules and rearrange their lives so they can be present. While I used to be highly annoyed trying to navigate them, I understand the enormous crowds on the Yard. I understand the people who shout at the players on the field as though they are their children (although some of them might actually be).  It is their one real moment to be who they were again, in the place that helped get them to where they are.

All in all it’s probably useless for me to continue to attempt to describe in words how I felt and how I feel. So, just know that the weekend pretty much felt like this:

And in light of the often shortsighted and misguided debates over the continued relevance of HBCUs, I’ve realized that unless you know the feeling, there is probably no point in me trying to describe it to you. So, I give up and I’ve decided to let Tupac help me, since I’ve noticed eery similarities in our sentiments:

My remix: “Even though you drove me crazy, I gotta thank the Lord that ya made me. There are no words that can express how I feel. You never kept a secret, always stayed real. And I appreciate how ya raised me, and all the extra love that you gave me…

Dear Howard, when I get paid, I will pay you back. But my plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated.”

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