I parked in some garage across from the Union (I'm not sure it's even there anymore) that was on a hill and connected to either Gilbert or Trowbridge Hall (Trowbridge, I'm thinking) and attended the orientation, didn't stay the night, and then drove back home.
I didn't really understand what I was doing.
Even though I'd taken a year off--working and traveling to Florida (Key West!)--I was still not clear of mind, I still didn't quite grasp what the heck I was supposed to be doing in the world. But I'd decided to go to college, to go to Iowa, had taken my SAT or ACT entry tests a year later than I should have and applied and was accepted and so on. And then went to orientation, signed up for classes, applied and got a dorm assignment, and then I think my parents moved me over to Iowa City just before classes started.
I was wary at first. Uncertain I'd done the right thing. Was ready to return to Des Moines (Urbandale, actually). But then, slowly, I got it.
College was fun!
Being in Iowa City was fun!
And Iowa City became the place I'd rather be.
I can still recall drives from Des Moines, coming down I-80, and as I neared the city of Iowa City I'd get a slow burn of excitement, of anticipation. I remember the exit onto Clinton Street and there would be the sign for Iowa City and the university--a shiny black metal sign with gold lettering (Iowa's colors) with some symbols: the Old Capitol, an ear of corn--and it just plain made me feel good. (I was into signs back then. I loved to drive long distance and the sight of highway signs could elicit the same feel-good emotions in me, feelings of adventure and anticipation. I recall walking the pedestrian bridge on the other side of campus to cross the busy road and there was always a highway sign right there--some numbered highway leading out of town--and just the sight of the sign would evoke travel and escape and new frontiers; I loved it.) So, just coming into Iowa City became a pleasurable endeavor for me.
I don't know. I mean, I was young, a late bloomer, I'd lived such a small and insular life for many years that a place like Iowa City, that roadside signs, became symbolic for a new and open world, one of fresh uncertainty and challenge. To this day I still love Iowa City. I don't know if I could live there--well, not true, I know I could live there, just don't know if I'd really prefer to live there--but it's always close to me. I realize that almost everyone has great affection for their college, their college town, but I'd like to believe that my connection is a little more than that, a little more tied to my personal history. It is, after all, where I bloomed.