As winter is slowly easing its way back into my life, I seem to be more nostalgic than I would typically be on a day-to-day basis on the Hill. Particularly, I have been thinking about the exact reasons why I left my perpetually sunny southern California hometown, and ended up at a college with a smaller population than my high school. It was because I found a unfound sense of warmth in the smallness of St. Olaf that I had never felt anywhere else in my life.
I think the size of St. Olaf and the proximity of its buildings has a profound influence on the campus and its students. From the start of my freshman year I found enjoyment in the cyclic routine my fellow Oles and I take across campus. It captivated me and made me feel unity with everyone around me. However, this unity has slowly begun to stagnate into a double edged sword. I do not just see the beauty in the unity, I see the hurt.
The hurt comes from my experiences being shackled to the very campus itself. The campus has a way of manifesting negative memories through my senses, from mundane things like tripping on ice near Skoglund, to significant moments of heartbreak. These memories are bound to the places where I experienced them, and every day I am thrust back into those moments. To the girl whose smoothie I knocked out of her hand while entering Tomson, I am sorry. To the iced tea I never got to drink because I spilt it all rushing to Great Con last year, I am sorry. To every person I have had an awkward interaction with at the doors entering Buntrock, I am sorry. The very simple act of going to the Caf can boil up such unnecessary anxiety that sometimes I wonder what captivated me about this school in the first place.
But the beauty does come in waves as well. Though right now the bad may appear more often to me than the good, the good is often a stronger feeling, bringing me back up from the shadows of melencholy. The past echoes throughout this campus bringing memories of joy. Every time I look up at the stars on an especially dark night I remember stargazing during Week One with people I barely speak to anymore. But the joy is still there. Every time I walk by Holland Hall I remember Professor Taliaferro’s introduction to the philosophy major that completely entranced me. And of course, Ellingson Hall, the shining gem of my freshman year: every time I walk by it I am reminded of the friendships that I made there that continue to flourish this year. These are some of the memories that serve as the rock on which I base all my other experiences on this hill. Like waiting for spring in the winter, I know more good times will come after the bad.
St. Olaf is a beautiful beast of emotion and memory. No other place has grabbed me by the heart and thrown me higher than the sky and lower than hell. It is in its walls that I feel the experiences I have had here, and as the highs get higher and the lows get lower, I will continue to battle with its complex unity.