After several days of a sunless inversion, it was gladdening to wake to pristine blue skies and a few inches of sparkly fluffy snow. I didn’t want to spend the time it requires to drive to a local canyon to walk, but I wanted it more tranquil than a city park or street, so I chose the University of Utah’s campus. It’s a couple of miles from my house and I knew what few students were around would be enclosed in the library or gym.
I parked the car at the bottom, by what is called the Circle, and walked uphill on the campus. The Park Building, bookstore, Milton Bennion Hall, the Annex, were all familiar to me, though the walks leading from one to another had changed. The crunch of ice under my boot reminded me of years earlier when I was a student here. So did the sparkle of snow on the side, where sun hit it during winter’s angle. Suddenly, I felt achingly full in my chest, and physically felt heart pangs radiated through my arms. I missed this place. I missed those gawdawful years of learning, reading about subjects I didn’t understand, walking these sidewalks, trying to find a place to sit in the cafeteria when I didn’t know anyone and I was too shy to ever introduce myself.
When I graduated I was thrilled to leave it. There was nothing more I wanted out of it. Out into the business world I went. I spent decades, behind a desk, on the telephone, at business lunches and meetings with clients or the chamber of commerce. Parts of it I truly enjoyed, and parts of it were hell dished out over and over again.
After turning forty I felt something was missing, or better said, I wanted something more. By fifty I had identified it as a life more suited to writing, studying and teaching, As I discovered that buried part of myself, I began to think I made the wrong choice. An academic’s life was inviting. By immature decisions I felt left out of what should have been my life.
I was walking in the shade of five huddled buildings, listening to snow crunch, when I felt a nudge on my wearying, crying heart. “No,” I thought. I had lived the best life for who I was at that time. The shy girl who couldn’t introduce herself. The one who, when she was the new student at West High, was so afraid she ate lunch alone in the bathroom. I learned in the business world where you have to be scrappy. Where popularity and self-assurance count, but only if it produces. Where the final report card is in your own mind.
I decided last Sunday afternoon that I am now more suited to a form of the writer’s life, but for me to get to this point I had to pass through the business world. It was a far better place for me to polish the outside of who I am, so I could clear some of what the inside is.