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To Lawrence, KU, and the End of an Era

I have been writing this post in my head for the last four years, and yet I never imagined this day would come. I never, ever dreamed about graduation, or better yet, the day after. The week after. All I could focus on was the now. And I guess that's something to be proud of, really. That's an accomplishment in itself. 

I knew from the very start that Lawrence was a special place, and that whenever I left, it would be in a completely altered state in the very best possible way. I grew up in the dusty suburbs of Phoenix, scraped knees on concrete driveways and made friends under the shining sun. I climbed trees and sang praises and wrote poems and said goodbyes. For eighteen years, Arizona was the only home I knew. For eighteen years, I grew up.
And then I got to choose my home, and Lawrence took over. I thought that because my bones had broken and stretched and my mouth had curved and curled, I had grown. I knew I had so much more to learn, but I had no idea what Lawrence had in store for me.
This little college town raised me.
Lawrence billowed oxygen into the spark of my creative heart. Lawrence gathered a community of generous, caring, fun-seeking humans to love and support me. Lawrence cracked open the history books and said look, see, this is what it means to have strength and moral ground and immense pride in what you fight for, where you come from. Lawrence carved brick alleyways and brought rock bands to sticky-floored venues and steered sad trains through the night. Lawrence introduced me to Larry, who owns the Antique Mall, and Alex, who fixed my car again and again. Lawrence showered me with midwest summer storms and sheltered me between one way streets and towering trees.
Lawrence gave me everything I needed to venture safely, to grow wildly in the right direction, to seek knowledge and laughter and love and skill.
And yet, with all of the words I have at my disposal, it will never be enough to do this incredible city justice. I know all those people that ask, "Kansas? What's in Kansas?" will just never understand. I will never be able to accurately articulate just how immense the influence of this city has been on me. And that's just Lawrence, that's not even my actual time on campus at the University of Kansas. That does not even begin to consider the months I spent listening to successful and published writers decode our craft and help shape the way my hand wields a pen. That does not include the classes I spent learning about Latin American history, or discussing life, death and after-death, or musing over how personality corresponds with behavior. That does not account for the hours and hours I spent reading materials of all kinds: nonfiction memoirs, Shakespeare plays, classic British literature, daily news articles, other student's short stories. Because you cannot have one without the other-you cannot have KU without Lawrence. They have been equally important, a skillful duo.

I have been writing this post in my head for the last four years, all across town. In the stacks in Watson Library. Smushed in a twin bed watching Christmas lights twinkle. In the basement laundry room of Ellsworth, soothed by the noise of the machines like a baby with a hair dryer. Driving in the car on the way to Kansas City. On the balcony in the Sunday sun. On a Tuesday night, upstairs at Signs. On a weekend morning at Decade. Riding the bus to Wescoe. Coasting under the sun-speckled leaves. Climbing stairs after stairs after stairs after stairs. In the buoying, bouncing stands of Allen Fieldhouse. During a Monday night closing shift at Urban. On the couch at home, in a tangle of legs and blankets and popcorn bowls, every night a movie night.
I could not write a post about the past four years without mentioning the people that made it so special. Without some pretty amazing humans, the past four years would have been completely different. I might not have made it without the constant support and joy of their friendship. 
Madi, my beautiful and intensely sweet freshman roommate who I am still lucky enough to call a best friend. This girl has changed my life in so many ways and I know without a fact that I would not be who I am today without her. When I was freaking out the night before we moved in to the dorms, I knew that once I saw her it would all be okay. And it was-so much better than okay. I laugh so much with this girl it's insane. We can be home alone doing nothing and turn it into stomach-cramping, weak-legs laughter. There is no doubt in my mind that whenever I need her, she will be there. She is the picture of kindness and grace.
Molly, my crazy stylish, super cool and adventurous woman. How lucky am I to have once shared a closet with this one? I soak up any of Molly I can get, whether it's a new music recommendation or a nauseating story from her nursing clinicals. She has shown me what it means to be bold and unique and brave. I know that when I get her to laugh, it must really be funny (or just a snapchat of me in my underwear and a captain's hat). Molly inspires me to be fearless and fiercely myself because she is so incredible at both.
Rylie, my quietly intense, gracefully strong fellow taco lover. I am continually impressed by how Rylie handles the insanities of life. She is incredibly hard-working but manages to remain patient, giving, and compassionate. Not to mention, this lady is crazy talented when it comes to that design ish and she can calligraphy the heck out of a piece of paper. Rylie shines a light everywhere she goes, and people are drawn to it. I admire that immensely and hope that I always get to catch the rays.
My Urban family, who make work a place I want to be, a place I know I will laugh and dance and rant with people who are right there with me.
McKenna, who I met the very first day of Fiction 351 freshman year and instantly bonded with. I have been so lucky to share these past four years with her and I love that we knew right from the start we were meant to be a side comment-making, sarcasm-fanatic duo. I know I can always count on her for the perfect snarky response or brunch date.
My Ellsworth family, who have mostly all grown up and graduated and left me now. They were a community for me when I was still a wobbly newcomer, and having that as a base to always return to has been immensely gratifying.
My bosses and professors and the many "adults" that helped or guided me along the way. A huge reason KU means so much to me is because of the people that shape it. I truly believe that the people who strive to create relationships and foster learning and provide guidance are the reason the KU community is so special. You can find those "average university" bits here and there, of course, but I know that KU is exceptional in a way other colleges aren't, and you can see it in the faces of everyone on campus.

I have been writing this post in my head for the last four years, but it just doesn't feel like enough. I wish I could bring you to a game in Allen Fieldhouse and listen to your heart pound with the rest of us while the video plays before tip-off. I wish I could get you into the Granada and up to the front row. I wish I could take you to all the restaurants and sunny spots and study nooks that I have found. I wish I could have shown you, somehow, the past four years, minute by minute, and just how much my heart swelled and ached and beat furiously.
I wish I could stay and do it over and over and over again. But I know that Lawrence will always be here, for whenever I need or want to return.

So, to everyone who thought I was crazy to go to KU:
You were right. It was crazy.
It was questionable and slightly irrational and certainly financially detrimental. It was crazy to come to a school in the very middle of the midwest whose mascot was a mythical bird.
But it was also crazy amazing. Crazy inspiring. Crazy fun. 
Crazy life-changing and worthwhile. 
It was absolutely, without a doubt, the best choice I ever could have made. One that I will look back on and thank my lucky stars that I was just rash enough, just barely sure enough, to pursue.

Unbelievably so.

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