Exactly a week ago, I returned from Homecoming 2017. Last week, it had been a year since my last post, and while life seemed to move forward for me — working my way up the corporate ladder, making a home for myself here in D.C., it seemed to be bringing me further away from my Alma Mater. And at William & Mary, as Tribe alumni continued their lives across the globe, business continued as usual — old buildings razed to make way for the new, the same traditions held in the same ways, new students walking the same paths alumni have done for centuries.
On the familiar drive to Williamsburg, I confessed to my former freshman hallmate, whom I had picked up at the Richmond airport, that I wasn’t excited about this year’s Homecoming. I worried things would be too different. I worried that, since I no longer knew many current undergraduates, I would be too far removed from the place I remembered.
How could I have known then, driving east on I-64, how wrong I’d be?
Natalie Applegate ’12 and I at the annual W&M Admissions Homecoming Tailgate. She trained me as a tour guide when I was a freshman. I have her to thank, in part, for four years spent as a tour guide, one year as a Senior Interviewer, and now three years as a professional in college admissions.
The magical thing about Homecoming — as all aspects of W&M are magical — is the ability it has to erase the years. As I crammed myself into a tiny Governor’s Inn room with three of my sorority sisters, it felt like no time had passed. The women I had barely talked to in months, as our different cities and lives had wedged us apart, picked up as if we were still undergraduates. And as we shared a sink as we had done four years ago in sorority court, one of us waxing poetic about her love for her electric toothbrush, I saw us as we were then, and as the Old Guarde must also see themselves — young. Bold. On the edge of something, with all of the potential we would ever have, and none of the true responsibility. Not yet. In that moment, brought together again by an annual tradition, thrown back into junior year in the Gamma Phi Beta house, time stood still for us.
This is what I love about William & Mary. The way time seems to have no real hold, that though the future hurtles forward, a university from an era that predates the country itself retains the same bricks and the same traditions. And that timelessness is evident in all of us, from the Old Guarde marching in the Homecoming Parade, to the babies wearing Tribe onesies. It’s in the way we keep coming back, year after year, after marriages and jobs and children have moved us far beyond the students we used to be. It’s in reuniting with your former geology lab partner at College Delly, and realizing you may have more in common than a shared history with metamorphic rocks. It’s in the faded initials inscribed on old trees, the worn bullet holes in the Wren Building foundation, and the Senior Walk that each year grows longer and longer.
William & Mary has, and will always, seem to defy the linear ravages of time. As the years progress in sets of four, and as new students visit, apply, and become our future, the cycle begins anew. With each passing Homecoming, and with each year I return, William & Mary will become once again what it has always been: home.