Dear Ms. Jordan,

Jess Cox

The first time I looked at you I knew I wasn’t in high school anymore. You were too beautiful; your presence was too great. I’ll never forget the first time our eyes met: You flashed a smile as I left the CCRB during the summer before my freshman year. At the time, I had no idea that a look like that was an invitation to say hi. When we finally did speak, you were incredibly sweet. Not once did you give the impression that you wanted to get rid of me, and that meant a lot.

When we first started hanging out, you were way too cool. As my freshman year officially began, you seemed to know I wasn’t ready to settle down. You were fine with me going new places, meeting new people and leaving you some weekends to explore what campus had to offer. I needed to get out and experiment with life, though sometimes I wonder if it was my youthful curiosity that prevented us from ever being in a real, long-term relationship.

Your patience and encouragement over the past four years have allowed me to grow so much. You introduced me to so many new people; you showed me how talented I was; you helped me to find my passions. That I aspire to be a writer is in no small measure due to you. You know how much time I have spent sitting alone in an empty corner of the world, scribbling away. Now you know that my scribbling was due, in part, to you understanding and appreciating my quasi-philosophical ramblings.

Not only did you encourage me to write, but you also provided me with constant subject matter. I have tried – and thus far failed – to describe your beauty, I have explored the role of friends in my life, and I have contemplated the best way to deal with the emotions of a woman. You helped me discover how cathartic writing could be – not to mention helping me to become comfortable using words like cathartic.

Ms. Jordan, I must confess that I have motives for writing this other than praise. I’m concerned about you – I have been for the last few months now. I have discussed some of this with you in person, but there is more I need to get off my chest. You are not the same as you once were.

I know after graduation we are both moving on in life: I’m going back home to live with my family and contemplate the universe; you are staying here on campus and assuming more responsibility with the University. As I leave campus, another anonymous ex-undergrad, you may become one of the most prominent faces of the institution. You are about to go through a transformation process that will make you the envy of your peers. I’m happy for you, but I’m also concerned.

I’m concerned with the company you keep. The new people you run with are extremely self-interested; they hang with you because of what they may gain. Many of them are power-hungry gossips, trampling on the feelings of people you have known for years. I see you try to be sympathetic to those friends you have hurt, but you come off insensitive and cold. Under the guise of ending this phase of your life right, you are losing some of the charm of old.

It’s true that there will always be people you don’t get along with, but now it’s different than before. You are much more likely to talk behind somebody’s back. You seem to relish chastising people for no apparent reason. You’re not Bobby Knight; you’re not the type to criticize with the goal of inspiring improvement.

The change in your character is one of the reasons I am around so little these days. Now I hang with you more out of obligation than anything else. Since you’ve been so good to me throughout college, I feel almost required to try to help you out. Interestingly enough, I spend a lot of time consoling those individuals you have hurt.

Maybe it’s my fault you have acted so harshly recently. Perhaps I should have been more proactive in confronting the behaviors I didn’t like, perhaps I should have been more emotionally invested in you, perhaps I should have stopped associating with you altogether.

I could sit here for hours and mull over how things could have been different, but that wouldn’t be productive. Kicking myself about past hypothetical situations has become one of my best time-wasting mechanisms. It’s far too easy to transition from legitimately trying to learn from prior situations to worthlessly ruminating over all the could’ves, would’ves, should’ves.

It was with you that I discovered Ben Folds Five. Right now I can’t help but think of their song “Smoke.” Hopefully our memories do not end up as those in the song: thrown in the fire, only to be found as smoke traveling through the air. If our memories do become smoke, it’ll be your fault. Despite how little I can stand you right now, I’ll always cherish our memories. Actually, after this college thing is all over for me, I hope to see you again someday. I wish you nothing but success in your new life. I’ll miss you, Mosher Jordan Hall.

Betts can be reached at djmbetts@umich.edu.

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