I have a good memory. In high school, we had vocabulary tests every Friday in English, so I would pace around the room for about five minutes before class, memorize the definitions, and ace the test. I still rely on my short-term memory more often than I work to internalize information. For about two weeks after I read a chapter, I can remember whether I saw a certain factoid on a left or right-facing page and if it was at the top or bottom of the page, so I sometimes use this rather than marking passages in a text. My memory is highly place-based; perhaps this is because I believe strongly in the power of place in evoking emotions, triggering images of events that occurred years ago, and instigating entire states of being. (We could go into my obsession with geopolitics, but I’ll spare you. You’re welcome.)
Earlier, while I was addressing graduation envelopes, I noticed the ease with which I wrote my return address on each envelope. Box XXX, 2 E. South St., Galesburg, IL, 61401. My mind wasn’t processing the characters; it was processing the slight movements of the muscles in my thumb and my pointer finger. Writing my address was like swimming in a still lake: smooth, effortless. One fluid motion from beginning to end. And it struck me that, while I’ll forget where certain subjects were mentioned in my books and the definitions of words I learned six years ago, I will never, ever forget that motion.
My admissions essay for Knox was a series of moments in places. I began in the library with the dust motes on the long, wooden tables in the Red Room, then moved outside to the south lawn of Old Main, framed in giant trees and cyclists meandering to class. These were places that, though I had only visited them once at that point, had still stuck with me. I was sick for much of that first visit and became very well-acquainted with the bathroom in the basement of CFA, yet these places had still managed to resonate. That, to me, was telling.
It still is. I like to wake up early; the light is different then, and I like to read on the Gizmo Patio and feel like there is no one else on campus. I like to be in the middle of the club fair at Admitted Students Day, throwing flimsy purple frisbees while doubled over laughing with friends who now work in the admissions office. I like to sit in the Alumni Reading Room in the library when it rains and watch the drops splatter on the windows. I like to walk to Seminary Street in the winter, the cold biting, to watch the Christmas lights twinkle.
I like the Beanhive. I like the poli sci suite and that I can say hello to each professor who walks by. I like the dance floor at Cherry Street during homecoming. I like twirling around the attic of the Ingersoll House. I like this place. I do, I do.
And I’ll remember it when I’m gone. Not the big picture, because that will change: word has it that we’re only $200,000 away from having enough money to complete the Alumni Hall renovation, and we’ll see if the college actually purchases St. Mary’s. But the details will stay the same. The light will fall. The snow will fall. Smiles, handshakes, waves, the collective groaning in the Honors tower–all of that will stay.
Different people will move through this place, but they’ll still be moving forward.