When I graduated from Taylor University in May of 2010, I was not planning on going back for a long time. I did not want to be that person who returned yearly for homecoming and walked the halls of their old dorms waxing poetic about how they had lived here in this very room. I am that person, often. I love to be nostalgic and sentimental. The truth is, as much as I learned at Taylor, it was a hard place for me. I made wonderful friends, many of whom I still talk with, but I felt like an outsider much of the time. By the end of my years at Taylor, I was ready to come home. I was tired. I wanted to start life and move on. I did that.
I moved back to the Pacific Northwest, got a job, made friends, started a small business. I kept in touch with those friends from school and remembered some of the things I'd been taught in class. I missed people, but I didn't miss Taylor.
This past spring, just before school finished for the summer, I had a lovely phone conversation with a favorite professor. We chatted about life and he asked me, in passing, if I planned on visiting again soon. I told him I might come back at some point when I was married (a very far off prospect). This was, quite honestly, what I thought.
Fast forward to this fall. One very fulfilling thing I did at Taylor was to help found the Adventures in Odyssey club. If you've read my post about Katie Leigh, you might already know this. If not, you need to know that this club has grown from the small group of people who would meet to discuss our favorite radio show, put out by Focus on the Family, into a group who has the connections to bring one of the stars of the show to Taylor to speak in chapel. I wanted to be there, but I didn't really consider it. I didn't really consider it because I didn't want to go back to Taylor. I got texts and messages from the members of the club. The founder was, of course, going back and she lives in California. For the first time, I allowed myself to think about what it might be like to visit Taylor. Not at some far off place in the future, but right now. I decided that I wanted to go. Several things fell into place to make it happen. It was so clear that it was where God wanted me to be. Even my flight, normally a long and grueling journey, was uneventful, dare I say pleasant?
My friend Liz picked me up at the airport and all of a sudden it hit me: I was in Indiana again. I had no idea what to expect.
On the way back to Taylor, we made a stop at that very professor's house (the one I'd told that I might visit Taylor with a spouse in tow) in a town about halfway between Taylor and the airport. He and his family had just welcomed a beautiful little girl six weeks earlier and I was so excited to meet her and the rest of his family. I'd heard much about them, but somehow we'd never met. It became a joke between us.
Liz and I arrived and were welcomed with open arms. Meeting the new big brother exceeded my expectations. I'd been hearing stories about him for so long, maybe that was why it was easy to fall into conversation with him, and once we started talking about Star Wars, all his shyness disappeared. I got to hold the new baby and I fed her a bottle and chatted with her daddy about school and life. It was strange how very at home I felt in a situation that is entirely foreign to me. Somehow, even though the baby's head was floppy, it didn't fall off and I managed to successfully burp her. Right before her mom came home from the store (the final part of the family I hadn't met) she threw up all over me, soaking my back, her entire body and the couch. It was wonderful. Already, my visit was better than I could have expected.
Liz and I drove to Taylor, to the home of a professor and his family that I would stay with. We got close and I caught a glimpse of the bell tower and a few of the dorms. We sped by and headed into a more residential area. My friends were waiting for me, they had dinner waiting to be warmed, big hugs and a glass of wine. As a student, we weren't allowed to drink at Taylor. It took me about 5 seconds not to feel guilty about having a glass of wine in Grant County.
I met new friends that night as well, best friends of the couple I had come to see who had recently moved in right across the street. I hope one day to have friends like them. They have kids close to the same age and they always seem to be in and out of each others' homes. It was a cozy feeling. In fact, they even decided to share me. The spare room was having some work done, so I ended up with my own room and bathroom in the house across the street. Nothing could have been less dorm-like.
Taylor, senior year, was when I began to learn about the liturgical year. It was also when I started attending a church I loved: Gethsemane Episcopal in Marion, IN. This church, and the rector there, gave me a crash course in liturgy and the Book of Common Prayer. It was there that I asked for guidance in finding a church when I went home and my rector passed on the information for the church I now attend. This was a place I had missed. I got to go back on Sunday. Father Jim patted my shoulder during the Eucharist (is that allowed?) and told me it was good to see me. The light came in through the big stained-glass windows, the choir sang and the pews covered no noise. All was as I remembered it. But it was different. There were some things from church that I wanted to forget as well, memories that I wanted to write over. That Sunday, surrounded by people I had come to see, I did.
We had lunch with another dear professor and his wife that afternoon (more wine) and I've never spent a more relaxed afternoon. This particular professor has also moved on from Taylor and now writes full time. He was in his element. The whole experience started to feel surreal. Everything was so wonderful and I felt so full.
Meeting my advisor before dinner and praying together nearly sent me over the edge. She might have been the person at Taylor who was closest to me as I went through my rough spots. She was the one I shared prayer requests with and went to for guidance and encouragement. Even now, as we talked, she offered that still.
I walked through the campus, not a lot, just what I needed to. I saw the new science center I helped fund with my tuition and the giant wind turbines that spin in the breeze. Taylor hasn't changed all that much, but I have. I made some new memories on a campus which held difficult ones, these ones are all good, and they are the ones I plan to think about when I remember Taylor, from now on.
This trip was about reconnecting with people that I love and miss and meeting new people (some very new to the world). I planned for that. I didn't plan for the healing that came with my visit, though God did. Now, I can think about Taylor, close my eyes and picture this latest trip, and smile.