Jason Rowland: Absence really does make the heart grow fonder

Tuesday, November 8, 2016 - 6:57pm

Last weekend, two of my friends from high school made the long drive to Ann Arbor from College Park, Maryland, to watch their Terrapins play in Michigan Stadium. The game went exactly as we expected, and we left around the end of the third quarter after it was more than apparent that Maryland’s 45-point deficit was insurmountable. As we filed out of the stadium, through the sea of 110,000-plus, maize-wearing, screaming fans, I couldn’t help but look back and admire. For the past two seasons, I had taken watching football games, in the largest stadium on this side of the planet, for granted. Even just a few hours before, I was surprised by my friend’s reaction to the size of the stadium — but now I understand. In that moment, I felt as if this was my first football game at The Big House, and this feeling felt good.

That reaction shouldn’t have taken me by surprise as I’d actually been feeling that way since they arrived the night before. Almost immediately after taking my friends’ things out of the car and into my apartment Friday afternoon, the three of us went on a campus tour while it was still light outside. As I explained the different notable places and traditions on campus — the athlete and the scholar facing opposite directions on the Michigan Union, avoiding the curse from stepping on the brass “M” on The Diag, and the stateliness of the Law Library — I realized, even after almost three semesters of exams, essays and stress, my infatuation with this school is still very much alive.

Saying this is an entirely new realization isn’t even entirely true. During the fall of my freshman year, I couldn’t wait to get back home for Thanksgiving Break. It was the first time in months that I would be able to see my friends and family from home. Almost as compelling of a reason for my excitement was the realization that the holiday afforded an opportunity to not have any work to worry about for a few days. However, underlying all of this was a want to get away from campus. The novelty of being in a new place was starting to wear off, as the tolls of a heavy workload had begun to pile up. As a result, the everyday beauty of this school began to disappear.

It’s all too easy to begin associating the grandeur of Hatcher Graduate Library with demanding nights of studying, or Angell Hall’s awe-inspiring columns with insipid lectures. When this happens, the allure of living in a place as great as the University of Michigan begins to fade. However, as the saying goes, absence really does make the heart grow fonder. Shortly (and I mean very shortly) after my homecoming, I was ready to go back to school. I missed my friends, I missed campus and I missed the general hustle of the University. Everyone at school, it seems, has a drive to do something big one day. When I’m lost in this race, it’s easy to wish for a calmer experience. But a moment of reflection allows me to see what a beautiful thing it is to be surrounded by people who are all as motivated as they are talented.

This is the thought I try to keep in my mind when school gets tough. Whenever the pressure begins to build up and make being a student at the University of Michigan less pleasant, I try to harness the feeling I had looking back at the field last weekend. This can be done by acts as simple as walking through campus on a nice day, listening to a favorite song or watching the people walk by. In these moments, I remember why I came to Michigan in the first place, and the feeling of optimism and positivity I got when I visited as a high school senior returns.

Jason Rowland can be reached at jerow@umich.edu.