So this weekend is "move-in" weekend at Iowa State, the weekend where Ames' population doubles and a lot of the locals start bitching about the very thing that keeps Ames from being a slightly larger version of Carroll. Without the students, we wouldn't be much. Their very presence keeps Ames looking forward (well, a section of the population anyway) and keeps us on people's radar. I, for one, welcome the student population. Sure, the "student slums" so-to-speak and increased traffic (from the sounds of it, Target is a madhouse this weekend) may be a pain in the ass, but I love this aspect of Ames -- that we keep getting fresh new faces into the community. And that we constantly have to bear them in mind, no matter how much a lot of people wish they would just go away. Or at least behave according to their narrowly defined set of rules.
I was one of those students, 16 years ago today. Probably not to the date, but you know what I mean. I probably spent this afternoon 16 years ago with a copy of my class schedule clutched tightly in my hand exploring the campus and figuring out where I was going to have to be the next morning. My life was starting anew, even though it didn't feel much like it. The fact that I was rooming with someone I knew from high school probably contributed a lot to that (Glenn, don't know if you read this blog, but that's not a slam on you in any way or form!)
Looking back on my college years, or my "non-wayward youth" as I like to refer to it, I don't really have all that many regrets. I'm not sure that presented with the same situation over again I'd react any differently than I did the first time around. However, living in the town where I was once a college freshman is a near-constant reminder of those days, although I don't frequent very many of the same hang-outs I did then (obviously.) I tried to go to the the Parks Library once, shortly after we first moved here, and never did I feel more out of place than I did then, amidst all the college students that I used to blend right in with. When I was in college here, most of my hang out spots were around the campus. Now, in the adult version of myself (or at least the 34-year old version of myself) I find myself coming to downtown Ames to disappear into the crowd. Perhaps this is one of my biggest fears about the new mall in Ames - that it will make the one place that I feel like I can disappear, well, disappear.
So I sit here at Cafe Diem, drinking a very yummy snickerdoodle latte and realizing that I'm really very lucky. I wish all those new students well. Sometimes I wish I could magically find every student that feels just as I felt back in 1990 (and I know they're out there) and let them know that it's ok. Perhaps they don't really need that - perhaps it's more for me than for them. I'm happy to be here in Ames, no matter what crazy things get thrown at me. I'm happier here than I think I ever was in Washington, even though I do miss John and Dawn a lot sometimes.
Good luck to the students this year - and remember that not everyone in Ames takes your presence as a burden. This local welcomes it. Even if it does make me feel older than Methusalah sometimes.