Today's Distance: about 300 miles
Total Distance: about 4760 miles
Today's Destinations: Belhaven College, Cups Espresso Cafe, Jackson, MS; Pensacola, FL
Due to a complete lack of attention to our itinerary, we find ourselves a day behind schedule as Day 15 closes. We'll just stay a day behind until maybe upstate New York, or possibly after. There's a bit of wiggle room still in the schedule.
The most remarkable part of today was touring our old campus of Belhaven - seeing what's changed and what looks the same. Not much has changed really - one of the buildings was rebuilt after a flood or a fire or something like that a few years ago, but it looks exactly the same. They're building a new residence hall, the kind that actually might be worth living in (basically campus apartments). And a few sections of the Bowl have inexplicably collapsed in what looks like a spontaneous mudslide.
It wasn't super hot, but it was humid, which quickly made us feel pretty sticky and tired. We realized that we used to do a lot of walking - probably a couple miles every day.
We went past the Student Center, where we first met; the fountain and the rocking chairs at Fitzhugh where we spent the first few hours talking and getting to know each other; the bench where we would sit when we took walks at night; the dorms where we would hang out (mostly Justin coming over to mine, because the boys' dorm lobbies were awful until they built a new cool one more recently); we drove past the duplex where I lived off campus for a year and a half and where we would say good-bye to each other every night; we didn't go all the way out, but we passed the turnoff for the Reservoir, where Justin asked me to marry him.
This is where our story started.
It's strange how our familiarity with Jackson came back slowly. This is the way to Kroger, this is the road to the good Walmart, that was where we went to church, there is the exit we don't take even though it says "Belhaven College." Walking around campus was strange . . . it was, in a way, like a ghost town since it was summer break - and yet it's not really deserted so it was more like we were the ghosts walking through a place that somehow managed to move on without us.
I decided to go to Belhaven because they offered me the best scholarship, the campus was small and pretty, and because I had a good feeling about the place after the dance auditions. I never expected this to be the place that would stretch me to the brink, challenging my limits physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I couldn't have imagined that I would form relationships that would shape me as a person, making closer friendships than I'd ever had before - one in particular.
My memories of Belhaven are mostly happy ones, and sometimes I wonder if that would have been the case if I had never met Justin, if we'd never started dating. Would I have ever left my dorm room outside meals and classes? Would I have found the church that ended up, perhaps, saving my faith by starting me on the path of making it truly my own? How different might my days at Belhaven, and all the days that have come after, been without this man who entered my life so suddenly, nearly ten years ago? And where would we have been now, if we hadn't had Belhaven to be together - if we'd remained long-distance friends or worse, pined away for each other from 2000 miles away? How superficially mature might our relationship have remained, had we not gotten to see each other at our best and at our worst, on this tiny little college?
This is where I fell in love with you. More than anything, that's what I'll remember about this place.