photo credit: commons. wikimedia.org
Driving home from the gym today, I decided to take a detour and make my way home via the streets of Boise State University's campus. The campus was a hive of activity, cars packed with personal belongings and new students navigating their way around campus on foot, orienting themselves to their new surroundings. Many were away from home for the first time as they wandered around with nervous hearts, eyes open in wonderment coupled with a hint of fear.
Stopped at the stoplight near the student union building, it dawned on me that twenty years earlier I was in the very same situation as many of these students, albeit on a campus that has grown and changed since I first stepped foot on it.
There I was, in August of 1998, fresh off a post-high school year of living with my parents and ready to give this college thing a try. (If you look closely, you can see the fear in my eyes.)
Here I was in a new city with a dorm mate I knew nothing about and taking the first steps in embarking on a degree path in which I was about as green as they come.
Writing had always been something present in my life, more like a hobby than anything else. From stories in my youth about a wolf who watches his pack disappear -- in turn becoming the last wolf -- to late teen beginnings of screenplays, writing was something I did in my spare time. And, in 1998, I'd make the choice turn this focus into a full-time pursuit of a dramatic writing degree in theater arts.
The summer of 1998 is where that all began.
Chaffee Hall would be my home that first year, which provided me easy access to the football stadium and basketball arena. Back in those days, student tickets to football games could be obtained right before the game started and basketball student tickets you'd have to plan ahead or risk the game being sold out.
Life in the dorms was spent studying in the computer lab, losing in ping pong tournaments to (name drop time) B.J. Rhode and Quintin Mikell, and watching WAY TOO MUCH Beverly Hills 90120 in my dorm room.
Time spent in the theater department and with other theater majors took a bit longer as I didn't really start to participate until the spring semester.
The seeds were planted, though, and once I fully committed, I became immersed in the world of theater and haven't left it since.
Driving on the campus where it all started made me take notice of how much had changed in the past 20 years. If my memory was a correct, a burger/milkshake shack (the name escapes me. Someone help!) was located where the Alumni Center now stands. (Still one of the best milkshakes I've had in Boise). And the rec center -- as beautiful of a facility it now is -- was once located in the same building as the BSU Pavilion (excuse me, Taco Bell Arena). Basketball courts were rarely empty and the student gym was no more than a large room and hallway. The great part was running laps on the upper levels of the arena.
On the other side of campus, large parking lots have been replaced by parking structures and a new Fine Arts building. The once proud University Inn -- with a restaurant and the Iron Gate bar where many a theater major congregated -- has been gone for almost ten years now.
Other buildings have popped up or been made over. Remnants of the student union building are still around and the structure is essentially the same. But the interior -- at least the lower level -- has been mostly remade, the cafeteria moved, and memories but ghosts of a much simpler time.
Progress and expansion are good things. Much like the University, I like to believe my writing has made a similar journey. Original thoughts have been torn down and expanded on all while improvements are constantly being made.
Twenty years ago I remember my first foray into the bookstore, wondering how I was ever going to make it on this campus. Nervous and excited, plus a touch of the homesick blues, my life in Boise was about to begin. And with it, a twenty-year (off and on) relationship with the city has helped shape my writing.
Here's to hoping someone new on campus who is feeling and thinking the same -- no matter their career path -- will in twenty years look fondly back at their first time on the Boise State campus. And that they will have grown right there along with it.