I’ve only found Ann Arbor from an airplane once. Thanks to the Big House, I got lucky one particularly bright afternoon and found the maize block M emblazoned on the back of one of the Jumbotrons from 30,000 feet above it. From there, I traced Hoover Street to State Street with my eyes as I had done so many times before with my feet on nearly every gameday. I found Yost Ice Arena, my apartment building, my freshman dorm and the field it sat on where I finished the last .1 mile of that random half marathon I spontaneously decided to run before my first day of class without any training just because I could. I found the Arb where I’d spent hours getting lost on purpose until I couldn’t get lost anymore. I found North Campus where I had been only a handful of times, a majority of which I spent on the roof of the theater school (I can’t get in trouble for that now, right?)
I found the Bell Tower. I never thought much of the Bell Tower despite its ubiquity. For almost four of my 22 years on this planet I have spent within earshot of that bell tower. I thought about everything that had happened to me in those four years, how I both changed and stayed the same, all foregrounded by that bell tower’s chimes.
I fell in love, I fell out of love, I fell in love again, with people, with ideas, with myself. I made stupid drunk decisions for the first time, though certainly not the last. I laughed and cried and struggled endlessly learning that I would never be a computer programmer. But I wrote hundreds of thousands of words and with each one grew more confident that I knew what I was really supposed to do. I made friends, I lost friends. Some I had for a night, others I will have for every night I have left.
Regardless of how long I knew my fellow wolverines, they all changed me. Perhaps in ways I am not even aware of, and perhaps not always for the better, but they made me who I am today. And today I am someone who has what she needs to leave this campus, be it regrettably, and make a positive difference in the world beyond the Big House.
I can’t promise it will happen over night. In fact, I can’t promise that it will happen at all. But the University of Michigan has done its part, providing me with what I need to leave here today and set out to accomplish my goals. Maybe it wasn’t this university. Maybe it was four years of my life just like any other four years that will come and go. But I can assuredly say that these four years spent within a small square I spotted out my airplane window marked by the M were unforgettable and provided me with a foundation on which I will grow for the rest of my life.