On one of the last days of classes, I decided to brave the allergen-field of the quad to sit on the columns and finish up a paper. There was a school field trip having a picnic on the grass, and the natural urge to climb something brought several of the 9- or 10-year-olds running up to where I was diligently typing away.*
*OK, so I was done with the paper and watching The Daily Show.
You could definitely tell the future journalists in the group, because soon the questions started rolling in. “Do you go to school here?” Yes. “Do you like it?” Yes, a lot. “Do you get to pick your own classes?” Most of the time. “How often have you gone swimming?” Too many times to count. I’ve known how to talk to children effectively for a while now, so we had a pretty deep conversation about the Mizzou Rec’s pool. Bah-dum-shee.
Pretty soon they got tired of asking me questions and started telling me things they knew about Mizzou, prefacing each comment with something like “Did you know?” “Is it true?” That last one made me think, yep: definitely some future journalists in this crowd. They talked about the rumors they heard about students in the early 1900s chaining themselves to the columns when the school wanted to tear them down, to which I was able to tell them the whole story about how they columns were originally part of the engineering building that blew up because of a generator donated by Thomas Edison.
After they went back to their teacher for the rest of the field trip, I stayed where I was for a bit longer. These kids were a little less than a decade away from college, and quite a few of them would head off to MU for at least their first year. They would walk the same halls, sidewalks and quads as I had, only eight or nine years into the future.
And while part of me was proud of being able to share my Mizzou knowledge with them, the other part of me hated them because they reminded me how everything was coming to an end.
My family laughs at me because when I was a kid, I used to cry at the end of holidays. Like clockwork, I’d be found sobbing in the bathroom on Christmas night because “it was over;” Halloween trick-or-treating would end, and I’d be a mess of snot because we wouldn’t get another one for another year; the same would happen on the way home from Fourth of July fireworks.
I got home on Sunday, and a combination of emotional and physical exhaustion made it impossible to think anything other than “BED. NOW.” Monday, however, was a day of unpacking, which is when the gravity of the situation hit me. The equivalent of Christmas, Halloween, Fourth of July and my birthday are all over, and I’m not getting another one next year.
I’ve been waiting to write this blog post for a few days now because I wanted the perfect way to explain why I feel this overwhelming separation anxiety. Then I rewatched Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining the other night after coming back to Carol Stream and found this gem of a scene that explains how I feel about Mizzou now that my time there is over. Skip to 2:49 to get to what I want you to see.
“Some places are like people,” Dick Hallorann explains to Danny. “Some shine, and some don’t.” For me, Mizzou “shines” brighter than any place I had ever been before (but not in the triple-murder haunted way like the Overlook Hotel). The way Danny feels the hotel’s power — albeit possessive, terrifying, homicidal, Stephen-King-twisted power — is the same way I feel the power of Mizzou. Just like in The Shining, where it’s the events that have taken place and the people who have lived in the hotel that create the energy, it’s the times I’ve had and the people I’ve shared them with that makes Mizzou “shine” for me.
Maybe I’m one of the odd ones, like Danny and Hallorann, who ” ‘shine’ can see.” I took a poll of “the Twainers,” a group of stellar, over-performing Missouri School of Journalism all-stars I had the blessing of living with in freshman year and remaining friends with throughout the rest of college.
I asked if anyone else was experiencing post-graduation depression and received to answers. One of them said no, she was in Columbia and felt like everyone was coming back that weekend. One “liked” it (I assume a yes?), and one of them answered yes. I assume the other four who didn’t answer were busy with new jobs, moving, prepping for grad school or crying too hard to see the keyboard to respond.*
*Nope, that was probably just me.
But just because they aren’t feeling the same way I am right now doesn’t mean that the “shine” doesn’t see them. I know that all seven loved and excelled at MU even more than I did (which takes a lot of work, let me tell you). They’re just stronger than I am, or haven’t had time to realize they feel similarly. Or maybe I am a Danny or Hallorann in a world of non-shine-seers.
I also reached out to my friend Dan, who left MU last year (he’ll be excited that this is the second or third time he’s been mentioned on here, finally this time by name). He said after transferring out, he had the same issues as I’m having now, and that they never really go away. That’s a bit of a morbid idea, and I’m praying he’s wrong, but it definitely coincided with my current situation. I know getting a job and starting the next chapter of my life should wipe away this sense that everything fun is over in my life, but until then I’m at a standstill filled with over-attentiveness to Facebook and obsessive JournalismJobs.com checking.
At the end of the novel The Shining, Hallorann and Danny still have their ability to see “the shine.” As funked-out as I feel right now about leaving Mizzou, having it lose its shine would be a 1839 times worse (my fellow Tigers will get that one). The Overlook’s shine happens because “when something happens, it can leave a trace of itself behind.” Things happened at the Overlook, “not all of them good,” that left behind energy seen by a select few. The same goes for Mizzou. Things happened to me, some great and others not-so-wonderful, that helped shaped my view of the place and (more importantly) the person it helped me become.
But it’s important to remember: it’s not the bricks and mortar that did the things Mizzou did for me. It’s not the cobblestone-under-asphalt roads or bronze tiger statue on the south quad that created the New-and-Improved Kate Everson. It was the people; it was the experiences. Those are what create “the shine” that I hope I never lose sight of, or ever loses sight of me.