Dear University of Texas at Tyler,
I met you in the fall of 2011 fresh out of community college with no real plan. You were beautiful. Leafless, cool, and covered with green grass and lakes. Your professors and students drew me in. I was afraid. Nervous, anxious, scared… were you right for me? You were a happenstance. I had no idea you would become so much more to me.
Anxious I pulled into the far parking lot on my first day with you. It wasn’t for a couple more months that I would learn there was a much closer parking lot. I waited until my friend Kait showed up, one of the three people I knew going in. We walked in together nervous and wondering what our 8 AM conducting class would be like. We huddled together with the two other people we knew scanning the room for the faces we would spend the semester with. Dozens of others that already knew each other were chatting while we sat on the far end of the room. Our teacher walked in. He gave us an overview of the class and we got a little excited.
During my first semester I met dozens of like-minded music weirdos just like me. We performed real music together and took hard classes and complained about them in the lobby like real college kids. You made that happen, UTT. I had my first solo performance in a legitimate recital hall. I was nervous. I didn’t know how these people would feel about my voice. I remember what I wore, how I felt, and who was in the audience. I made it through and it automatically made me feel closer to everyone. I took an upper level theory class my first semester with you. Our professor was in his first year with you too. We felt a little kindred spirit with him.
In the spring of 2012 I watched in horror as an upright piano fell over in my diction class. We didn’t know whether to laugh, scream, or awkwardly walk out of the room. We laughed. 🙂 And then of course we helped pick it back up. I learned IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) and loads of new music. I learned what count singing is and got pretty good at it. I took the second half of conducting with the greatest teacher on the planet. I got closer to the people I have come to call my friends. The classes got smaller as instrumentalists were separated from the vocalists, but we all supported each other. Even if most of the time it was by making fun of each other.
I started the fall of 2012 with you bitter sweetly as I entered my last year with you. I had come to love you more than I expected and leaving you was going to be tough. This semester started out like any other semester. I took some of my favorite classes with the greatest teacher ever. I studied hard and performed a half hour worth of music as part of my requirements to graduate from you. I began spending more time with my friends. But in December my husband and I separated. I left you that semester wondering what would happen to me. I didn’t have an answer.
I came back to you in January different. Sad, alone, and hurting. I walked your halls with a mask I worked tirelessly on. Day after day I spent meticulously forming that mask to make it look like the Melody you met in the fall of 2011. It worked. For months I walked your halls and you didn’t know. But the mask started to wear thin. The real Melody began to show through. You found out I was divorced. Would you still befriend me? Would you still think I was funny?
You did. The people I met because of you still love me. They still befriend me. They still think I’m funny. Because of you, UTT, I survived the last six months. I have grown quite attached to you, and dare I say, have fallen in love with you. You allowed me to meet the best people I will ever meet. These people supported me, loved me, and befriended me in a time of need whether they knew it or not. I am forever indebted to you, UTT.
I leave you on May 11. Sad, tearful, but never alone. Your blacktop roads and tree lined streets and big, brick buildings are in my memory forever. Your lakes, your crawfish days, your Starbucks, your Chick-fila that I frequented with friends, your library I visited less than five times, your art that sprinkles the campus, your ducks and squirrels that fear no man, your fountain pranked with soap (twice), your Cowan center that I spent these last two years in, your construction I walked through, your path I walked with friends to get lunch most days, your convenient store we got chocolate donuts from, your pianos, your atmosphere, your Starbucks barista that should know me by name, your University Center, your outrageous parking sticker price, your affordable tuition, your fall leaves, your summer heat, your free student counseling center, your trails, your picnic tables, your Patriot Singers, your lack of parking, your openness, your welcoming… but most of all your people have played a large part in who I am today.
I leave you different. I am changed. Circumstances and life have had their way with me, but you were there. God is there. He moved me to you and knew how much I’d need you. I’m a new person. A beautiful, stronger person. More so than when you first met me. I don’t think you knew just how much you would change me, but you did. And I thank you for it. You’re just a school, but to me you were just what I needed.
Because of you University of Texas at Tyler, I know I’m going to be okay.
I love you,