I’ll start with a confession: I never wanted to come here. I dreamt a lot of college dreams in high school, but flyers from The University of Alabama were always tossed in the trash. It seemed too cliche, first of all, and too close to home, second of all. It seemed like there would be no chance to stretch here, and so I hung my hat on places farther north and sharper west than Tuscaloosa, Ala. But through a beautifully labyrinthine set of events, I found myself pulled so strongly here that I really had no choice but to pack up my little yellow vacuum and a whole lot of excitement and arrive, bright-eyed and ready.
I can’t say I’m sorry for this; I think this beginning was important, important because I needed to know that the reason I was here was not because I’d drawn up my own plans and they’d worked, but because I had and they hadn’t. I needed to know that so that at the end, I could see that my God’s ways are just plain better than mine, and that His glory radiates from the things He touches. And He’s touched our time together, UA.
Here’s another thing that you might not have seen coming in a love letter (which this is), but I have to say: if it hadn’t been you, I still think it would have been good. I trust that no matter where I go, Jesus has beauty for me: people ready to wrap me up, sunsets painted for my delight, wildflowers that peek out along paths that learn the way my feet go slap-slap on the pavement. I believe that it’s not the place, but the people, and it’s the people because of the Jesus who cares.
But it was you. It was you, it was you, it was you. It was everything about you, from the women who have become the sort of family for which I’ve prayed to those library steps that have stood so loyal as I’ve returned again and again to lay my heart right down on them. It’s the way the trees seemed to beckon me in, the way the Chimes send waves of familiar melody throughout the air. It’s the way some of the old buildings seem to reverberate with secrets; it’s even the way the old buildings also reverberate with the smell of nacho cheese Bugles. It’s the way I feel when I get close to here, like no matter where I’ve been, I’m home now.
It comes down to this, University of Alabama: It could have been anyone, but it had to be you. So thank you, thank you for wrapping so much goodness around me for the sake of God’s glory. I want you to know that when I stand in the middle of the Quad and I feel the sunshine on the crown of my head, the gratitude is overwhelming. It laps up against all the sides of me, until it threatens to spill over onto your sidewalks, but I gather it in. Part of me wouldn’t mind leaving a piece of me right there on the concrete, but I know that’s not how it works–I will leave, and you, you will continue to change and grow and thousands of other bright-eyed kids will learn what it’s like to love and be loved on your grounds. But you changed me, or rather, you gave me a place to be changed. It was sweet Jesus who wrote grace all over my heart, but you gave me steps to sit on while I let that fall on me.
Part of me wishes I could stay, UA, but I know it wouldn’t be good for either of us. You need to keep me just as I am now, and I need to take you, just as you are, into the next adventures. I know that one day I will come back, and you will be different. I will search the faces of those kids scurrying around, wearing a look called “I have six papers due.” I’ll know that look, but I’ll feel a hundred years away from it, even though I’ve only just now washed the final bits of it from around my eyes. I may not recognize the faces or the new buildings or the way the sunlight lands on the grass now with that old tree gone, but here’s my promise: That won’t stop me from climbing those steps and handing over my heart to you again, even if just for a little while. After all, we’re old friends, aren’t we?
Here’s to you, University of Alabama. Roll Tide to all, and to all a Roll Tide.
All my love,
Lindsey, Class of 2013
P.S. Like Gertrude Stein said, “This is the place of places and and it is here.”