One sunny spring evening, it’s unseasonably warm outside in Athens.
People are strung out across College Green enjoying the day. The birds are singing as the wind rustles the elms. Squirrels are perusing the green in hopes of snatching a snack.
But this day happened sometime in early March 2020. I was just a freshman, running straight from Schoonover Center to Shively Hall in hopes of acquiring dinner before closing time. I didn’t notice the sunlight streaming through the elms, or the gentle laughter of my peers. As per usual, I was in a hurry.
I jump forward to another spring evening, also unseasonably warm. This time I’m a senior eating McDonald’s in my car with the windows down, watching all the activity on College Green. Sure, I have a meeting in ten minutes, but it’s alright if I’m a minute or two late. Days like this don’t last forever.
Sometime between now and then, the campus completed another four-year cycle. Students came and conquered; a solid number of my friends have already graduated (and left me) to chase their dreams. Even some of my favorite professors have cycled over in layoffs and life changes. OU has had two presidents and just got a new one. They tore down Scott Quad and closed Shively. Businesses have closed and opened on Court Street.
The Athens I was introduced to four years ago is not the Athens I will be saying goodbye to. And I think that is fantastic.
Sure, I know part of the change is because of the pandemic. But this is also just what Athens does. Isn’t that a crazy concept? Each year, a couple thousand people come to this town in search of something higher and greater. They come to find their purpose, create the future and have the time of their life. While doing this, they change the whole place, intrinsically and fundamentally. Then they scatter to all the corners of the world. They’re new people with new skills, aspirations and friendships that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.
As I watch the green from my car, I see somebody scurry out of Schoonover, heading in the direction of Morton Hill. This person walks fast, eyes on the future, and stomach in search of dinner. Or maybe I’m projecting.
I glance at myself in the mirror. I still look like that same freshman running from meeting to meeting, class to class. I’m sure the bags under my eyes are a little darker, and my hair is just a smidge longer.
However, I realize for the first time that I’m looking at a different person than I did three years ago. Just like Athens, I’ve changed. And just like the other graduates before me, off to pursue my dreams I go.
This is Taylor Burnette's farewell column for The Post after four years of being on the staff. Taylor is a senior studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Taylor know by tweeting her @TaylorBurnette_.