Driving to my grandparent’s house as a kid–well, I wasn’t the one doing the driving–my mom would ask my sister and I which house was our favorite. I don’t remember when we selected the houses, but I know that every time my mom drove along the curved street approaching my grandparents’ house my sister and I would stir to look out the window to identify our homes. The street was lined with unique Tudors and Victorians. We would pass a really long home brown home that had a bowling alley and was haunted. (This info was provided by our mom and confirmed by my aunt and cousins). My sister’s house was first. Then a few houses down was mine. It was a blue Victorian with a wrap-around porch and basketball hoop.
Tonight I drove to Evanston for an event hosted by my alma mater welcoming the graduating class. I was invited to share a few remarks as president of the Chicago alumni club. My navigation app had me go a new way to avoid traffic backups. I have driven to Evanston at least 100 times. Maybe it was the new route, but tonight’s drive was different.
Cruising along with my sunroof open to let in the spring air I drove by homes that reminded me of the ones I used to see as a kid en route to my grandparents’. I haven’t thought about those homes since the last time I drove on that curved street along the golf course.
That memory made me pause to acknowledge how much my life has changed since being a kid in the passenger seat. I continued thinking about what I would say to the graduating class. Entering the room I was quickly reminded how old I am. While chatting with an alum and board member, he commented “we keep getting older, but they stay the same age.”
Looking at the young faces of the class of 2016, I was excited for them and hopeful for myself. The future is full of possibilities.
I have always looked at things, especially time, in mathematical terms. When I was 10 I told people I was a quarter of the way up the hill. When I turned 25 I dubbed my bar crawl party my quarter-life crisis. Maybe I really just love quarters? Thinking of the alumni who are about to graduate I realized a third of my life has happened since I enrolled at Northwestern. At least it’s not another fourth!
The first time I drove to Evanston was in my mom’s car. A friend of mine from high school was admitted and I went to visit her. She took me on a walking tour of campus and pointed out Shakespeare’s Garden, which became one of my favorite spots. About a year later, I signed up to take a swing dance class offered by a student group. At the time I wasn’t a student at Northwestern but wanted to see what it was like to be on a college campus. With written directions and still in my mom’s car, I navigated my way to the parking lot opposite a huge white building known as Technology Institute (when I became a student I learned it was just called “Tech”). I tuned the radio to Wildcat basketball games and the student station as soon as I was in range. There were a few nights I made wrong turns and dead ended into the lake on my way home.
Since that first trip I have had three cars. Now I drive to the lake on purpose. My first car, lovingly called The Beast, had a myriad of problems including a busted water pump that required blasting the heat even in summer to prevent the engine overheating. Now my car has heated seats.
In the span of a decade I have had a handful of jobs, lived in three different places, bought a house, dated and disappointed the majority of women in Chicago, made friends around the globe, seen beautiful places that make me grateful to be alive, learned about the world and myself and found someone who loves me as much as I love her.
Driving by the large old homes along Lake Street and Sheridan Road reminded me of my childhood awe going to a place I love. Northwestern was my physical home for only two years, but it has been my place to learn, to get loud and rowdy with friends, to recharge, to celebrate, to be happy.