At times, it is difficult to wholly love that which is ordinary or mundane. Places, people and experiences tend to become routinized the longer we are in contact with them and prompt lesser sensations of wonder with each passing day. This phenomenon is often irreverently referred to as the “end of the honeymoon phase,” as though this result did not come gradually; as if a switch has flipped and the rose colored glasses have been not only discarded but stomped on and their lenses broken into sharp little pieces.
Although it is easy to take for granted those things we once held dear, I tend to be less cynical about this pattern of behavior. In fact, I would suggest that it is only once we have become disillusioned with the newness of something that we can really love it at all. To love, one must first know, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to know at a distance. Allowing a place or a person to put roots down in your heart is ultimately an expression of trust and an admission that you are willing to be hurt by the object of your love should it ever make an exit from your life.
This process of two things changing from discrete entities into a cohesive whole is one of the more beautiful parts of the human experience. Disentangling things that have been melded together, however, is excruciating. Perhaps this is why leaving Hope the Friday before a lengthy and unexpected hiatus proved so difficult. From the moment that our campus’ closure was announced to the minute I drove away that blindingly sunny morning, it felt as though time had been suspended. I was overwhelmed with the sense that I should be distraught, but could not manage to feel anything at all. It was when walking around campus without another soul in sight that the reality of the situation hit me, and I finally realized that I would be unable to stroll the tree-lined paths of the Pine Grove for a very long time. The sun beat down on my face and the lake breeze played at my hair as though they were issuing me some kind of farewell. It was soft and bittersweet, and if I could live in a moment forever, I would be hard-pressed not to pick that one.
From that moment on, I felt the gravity of leaving those good things I had come to take for granted. I cherished the idle conversation as I made breakfast alongside my housemate and the scent of fried eggs filled the house for one last time. The sunlight streaming through my peach-printed curtains seemed nothing short of delightful, and I relished the sounds of Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” as I packed the majority of my belongings into suitcases and stacked them by the door. Finding community—and lunch—in Phelps felt like an adventure as opposed to a chore, and as the taste of the cheese that you peel out of plastic packaging mingled with that of tomato soup, I was filled with gratitude for the workers who had prepared all of our food in the midst of a pandemic and fielded scores of students armed with to-go boxes. Perhaps the greatest moment of all came upon taking my meal across the street to the Anchor newsroom, where I met with my co-editor and four members of our staff one last time to discuss this project, our so-called “Corona Chronicles,” and sit in each other’s company for a little while.
I love Hope, and in the process of stepping back and going away, was able to see the beauty of this thing that I have allowed to grow in my heart. Like any other place, it has flaws, but I truly believe that there is nowhere else in the world that is quite like Hope College. It represents the coming together of disparate and different people with the intention to know more fully, to love more intentionally, and ultimately, to be transformed by hope.
Whether it is four weeks or eight; whether we finish this semester online or take our finals in person, know that you have loved something and loved it well. Know that while it is gone now, it has not lost its significance, and there will come a time that you will be beckoned back and asked, once again, to make room in your heart for this place and its people. Maybe you live just a stone’s throw away from campus, or perhaps you were shuttled back to the opposite end of the world, but regardless of where you are from or where you have gone, we are all a people of Hope.
Click here to see the StoryMapJS on the Corona Chronicles