The following is part of the continued effort to make sense of my life by seeing what once made sense. It’s a nonsense plan, I guess.
Back and back and back again
September 1, 2012, Published in the Silhouette
To your left, the blinding fluorescence of multi-coloured coveralls shimmers. Just to the right of that, a mob of incessant cheering has broken out and will most likely ring on for about an hour or so. Right in front of you, people are probably parading around to the cackling of talent-bereft pop monstrosities, who, through relentlessly roaring radios, shriek on and on about a morally bankrupt society. Don’t be alarmed. Don’t be afraid. This is your welcome. This is your University.
After two years, your University – while still entirely new to you – has become my home. It didn’t start out that way, though. I came as you did, or perhaps more truthfully, even less than that.
Jump back a few years, and you’ll find me packaged in a pair of mustard-stained underwear. It was a slip of the mind, a mistake of nerves, anxiety and general uncleanliness. I was scared out of my pants (and clean tighty-whities) of the prospect of entering a foreign environment. McMaster was big and I was small and I wondered if I would really matter at all.
Yet in time, things changed and I was able to call McMaster my home. To this day, whether by sheer loyalty or my own volition, McMaster still is. It isn’t the University itself that conjures this feeling, however. Nor is it the community or unwavering kinship that I have developed over the years.
Instead, it is both the first warm smile I received and my first bitter disappointment. It is that day on a piano singing with strangers. It is finding a way onto the roof of Hamilton Hall only to wonder how anyone could get down. It is the best night that will never be remembered and another night that I only wish I could forget. It is that time looking up at the stars reading Kurt Vonnegut aloud. It is cramming before an exam. It is a laugh, a kiss, a conversation, a feeling, a thought, a hug, a cry, a test, a workout, a game, a secret, a dance, a drink, a car ride. It is an entire two years sandwiched into an article.
For what my home is and always will be is a single moment that is built upon brick by brick, memory by memory – just like a house would be. During both the good and bad times, it serves as a place for comfort and reflection. It reminds me of where I was and where I am going. Friends, family, and people that I will never have the chance to meet, people that I will never be able to talk to – all of them fit into that house, that shelter. My shelter.
Yet it is not mine alone. It will be yours, just as much as it is mine. It also belongs to the person who just passed you by. And the professor who is lecturing you. And the custodial staff who are working tirelessly. It is all of ours together.
This is because these moments, however fickle they may be, are the aggregate of 125 years. Arising from a Christian education centre in 1881, McMaster was founded as a Baptist seminary. In 1890, the first degree programs were offered. 1892 brimmed with zany sport cheers like “Boom on Star”. 1894 saw the first students graduate. 1902, and the school colours were chosen. Then, in 1930, McMaster found its home. Hamilton.
This is but a brief snippet of various instances that comprise McMaster’s history. It, however, barely scratches the surface. There were numerous accomplishments in education and research. There were times of uncertainty and hardship. There were harrowing accounts of students being drafted into the Great Wars proud but never returning.
Without all of these – a hundred unrecognizable faces and names, the sum of people before and after me, a collective spirit of students that yearned for knowledge and social interaction, all the alumni, all the professors, all the staff, all the people who walked where I walked, did what I did, and felt what I felt – my moments, my home, and everything else I value in this place, would not exist.
Perhaps that’s a tad dramatic. It is often said that while all atoms exist, not all are important. Maybe that’s true. Maybe we are truly inconsequential in the scheme of things. Maybe no one will remember me five years from now. Maybe this very sentence will fade into obscurity.
But understand that while we have probably never met and it is likely that we never will, I have been where you have been, and no matter what has happened here at McMaster, whether it be happiness or sadness, frustration or serenity, I keep coming back and back and back again.
For this place is what you make of it, and what you make is this place.