It's been an arduous Spring in a lot of ways, but I think the toughest part has been the near-graduation nostalgia that many folks close to me are experiencing. The trips down memory lane, the old emotional baggage, the skeletons in the closet... Come on, you know what I'm talking about.
I won't say I wasn't affected by it, but I'd like to stubbornly believe that I got by just fine until last week.
Last week on the Mizzou campus, part of the ol' Brady Commons was torn down, so that construction could begin on Phase 2 of the new student center replacing it.
Although I'm not graduating this month like I want to, I feel like the loss of that building still signifies the end of an era of my life as it stands in Columbia, Missouri. It's an era that has seen my life cross paths with that building over the past six years--often to great effect. Yes, it's just a building, just another stupid building on campus. But the loss of that stupid building just feels like a sign, telling me that my time here has mostly passed, that I should probably get going soon.
Before college, I had the privilege of going to the Missouri Scholars Academy, Missouri's version of what some other states call a governor's school. Those of us taking part endearingly called it "nerd camp."
Over the course of the three-week program--so packed with activity that I still recall it as if I were there for months--I met a lot of interesting people and made a lot of life-changing friends. And (I guess) most importantly to me, I met and befriended my future first girlfriend there.
We had a little group that would go over to T.A. Brady's and play DDR during our free afternoons. We weren't allowed off-campus, so the Subway in T.A. Brady's was often the secondary meal option to the (then-newly remodeled) Mark Twain Hall cafeteria.
Two years later, I came back to Mizzou for college. Considering it was not even on my list until after Spring Break (read: after scholarship deadlines), it was what you could definitely call a brash and last-minute change of heart. I came to this town, naturally because I had plenty of friends going, but also because I'd grown up in the town (until third grade), and because of the whole Missouri Scholars Academy thing. There were a lot of little things pulling me here, but I'm not sure I would have gone here if not for the spectacular three weeks I'd spent there, years ago.
I was only remotely interested in journalism at the time, with dreams of computer programming and cyber security and hacking and NSA cryptanalysis. Late in high school, I'd developed a lust for photography, but that was about the only thing journalism had on me--I didn't care for the form or the ethics or anything, I just liked taking pictures.
Along with a friend (and future roommate), I went to Brady Commons and attended a news meeting at the student paper, The Maneater; I was looking to be a photographer. Just something to do for fun, so I could get better at it and hell--they paid you!
By the end of my freshman year, I was a journalism major.
Over the course of the next two years, I met Ron Jeremy, started to care way too much about work, failed out of school, got back in, went from being a photographer to being Online Editor to just being a programmer again... And somehow all of this (via an alum at the New York Times noticing me) launched me to my current job as a Web developer at The Spokesman-Review.
That final year, our online team turned a (supposedly) one-off podcast experiment into a standard feature. And (after three years of development hell) we launched a new Web site. I can't tell you how many times we'd stayed at the office 'til sunrise--even after the paper went to the printer and everybody else had left. There was a lot of mojo in that office, something driving us to work on these awesome things to our own detriment. I had never been so proud of anything I'd previously worked on.
For a few semesters, I joked that I lived in that building more than I lived at my apartment. And it was kind of true.
I'm not joking.
During my heyday at the Maneater, I started taking darkroom classes at the Craft Studio just down the hall from the production office. Started revisiting T.A. Brady's regularly with a newly-formed DDR Club. There was the Filipino Student Association down there, too.
It's not like I intentionally sought out things to do within the building, but rather, it was just coincidental that everything I did for a couple years as an undergrad took place there. (Which, I suppose, is just good use of a good student center.)
I've met so many people through that place and I've made so many friends. I've been through drama, I've had a lot of fun, and I've had my share of all-nighters in there. And while I'd love to say that it was in there that I found a place where I belonged, I think the more striking thing to me today is that most of these connections have far outlasted the battered remains of the old building.
And that makes the nostalgia a lot less painful.
T.A. Brady's is gone. The Maneater office moved across campus. The Craft Studio moved down the street.
It's time here has come and gone. And I'm not quite gone yet, but I can sympathize since my time here is running short. (Twenty-one credit hours, give or take a couple.)
Buildings come and go and the beating heart of the university will go on. (In all the hustle and bustle, I'm sure a lot of folks who live off campus don't even know that it's gone.) But to me, in a lot of ways, Brady Commons was the beating heart of the Mizzou campus.
Indeed, the in-construction branding for the new student center dubs it "The Heart of Mizzou." I hope that someday, someone else can look on that building and understand what the old one meant to me.
My first relationship, my college choice, my career path were all (in)directly influenced here. Plain weird when I wonder how life does that, but so it goes.
Thanks, Brady Commons.