Today my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University, is 125 years old. In honor of this momentous occasion, OBU is sponsoring a blog festival over the next several Tuesdays. Today’s assignment was to share our favorite OBU memory.
Easy enough. Right after I do that, I will decide which one of my three offspring is my favorite child.
I couldn’t possibly single out one favorite memory from the four years I spent at Ouachita. Every time I try to focus on one special time, at least four other remembrances crowd it out of my head. But since I want to be a team player and complete today’s assignment, I looked for a common theme through the pictures and stories that come to mind whenever I think about OBU. It was no big revelation that all my favorite memories involve other people, but when I think about what makes me as passionate about Ouachita as I was when I graduated in 1991, and when I think about everything I hold dear about that little liberal arts school nestled in a sweet little Arkansas town, everything comes down to relationships. My OBU memories are dear to me because the people I met there are still so very dear to me. I had friends before I went to college, but at Ouachita I really learned what it means to do life with other people.
For some reason, when I was thinking about what I wanted to write about today, I remembered a picture that I hadn’t thought about in ages. I pulled out my yearbook from my senior year at Ouachita and flipped through the pages until I found it. It’s a picture of my friends Susan, Anita, and me sitting on the steps of the business school on a beautiful, late spring afternoon.
I cut off the rest of the caption but it said something about the three of us sharing a laugh together. We do look happy, don’t we? Three friends sitting in the sunshine, enjoying the day and each other’s company.
Now, the rest of the story….
Now kids, back in the day, we didn’t all have our own computers in our dorm rooms. We had to go to the “computer lab” to use the school’s computers and dot matrix printers. On the day that this picture was taken, I had just left the computer lab where I’d lost my senior thesis….for the third time that week. I’m sure it was operator error, but whatever the reason, I was one step away from losing my mind. The paper was due; I hadn’t slept in days; I had other projects that needed to be finished so that I could graduate; I had no after-college plan; and every time anyone mentioned that in I was getting ready to leave OBU and the life I’d made for myself there, I started crying like the world was ending….I was a complete mess. I don’t remember if Anita and Susan had agreed to meet me there or if it happened by chance, but I had just finished telling them the sad story of my lost paper when we saw that we were being watched…and photographed. I don’t remember if we knew the photographer or not, but the fact that someone was documenting the moment I went completely crazy was suddenly very funny to the three of us. We started laughing and couldn’t stop. If there were a picture of what happened after the one in the yearbook it would show the three of us lying on the stairs, clutching our sides, and laughing so hard that tears were running down our faces.
That picture still makes me laugh. It reminds me of obstacles that seemed unsurmountable until my friends helped me climb them. It calls to mind the people I shared my life with who in turn invited me into theirs. It makes me aware that the right friends can make me laugh even when I feel like crying. Ouachita taught me the importance of living in community with others. I learned to make myself vulnerable to others and invite them to be part of my life and they returned the invitation.
Ouachita is an incredible institution with beautiful buildings and impressive academic programs that rival those of other larger universities. But let’s be honest, it isn’t extremely difficult to find a place to get a good education. It is very hard, however, to find a place offering top-notch scholarly instruction that feels like home. To me, the best thing about Ouachita Baptist University is her people. It’s the friends who become the family you choose for yourself. I couldn’t narrow it down to one favorite memory, but I did find one that illustrates what all of my favorite memories have in common: the people I met there who became a part of who I am today.
Happy Birthday, Ouachita! Save me a piece of cake with a lot of icing!
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