My senior year of high school, back in the Spring of 2009, my mom and I took a little road trip to visit some colleges that I might attend. At my school, seniors were given a couple of days to take off for the sole purpose of visiting colleges, so on a Wednesday afternoon, my mom and I hit the road in her white Honda Odyssey and started our trip to the University of Missouri. When I was an optimistic eighteen year old, my plan had been to become a journalist because I enjoyed writing so much, and the University of Missouri had one of the best journalism schools in the south, so naturally that was a place that I wanted to be. We arrived in the small college town of Columbia after dark, so we didn’t go visit the school until the following morning.
It was just as I pictured my ideal college to to, the old stone buildings, the lush green grass of the quad at the center of the campus. The romantic in me saw myself stretched out in the grass on a nice spring Saturday, immersed in the great work of literature that I would be studying at the time, but unfortunately that picture never actually panned out. Missouri seemed like a good place for me, but the tuition for an out of state student was higher than some of the other places I was considering and the biggest problem turned out to be that I didn’t actually get accepted after I fell in love with the school and applied. The second and final stop on our road trip was a middle of nowhere town called Lawrence, home to the University of Kansas. To be honest, I’m not really sure what prompted me to apply here, probably something to do with writing or journalism, but I had been accepted already, so at this stop I was scrutinizing every aspect of the school, knowing that there was a possibility I would end up as a student here in the fall.
Overall I wasn’t too impressed with the school, but what really made me decide that the University of Kansas wasn’t for me, is that everywhere you walk on campus, you seemed to be walking up hill, no matter which direction you were headed. This must have been where all of the parents who told their kids that they walked uphill both ways to school every day attended. Being a devout follower of the “exercise as little as possible” religion, I felt it would be a bad idea to test my faith by putting myself in a situation where I’d be tempted to break the most important commandment, even if it was out of necessity. We left Lawrence on a Friday, in the early hours of the afternoon and began the long drive back to Arkansas, my future college still as undecided as when we started our journey two days earlier. On the way home, the weather turned bad as apparently it tends to do in Kansas, and just like in the Wizard of Oz we found ourselves in the middle of a serious tornado threat.
Everyone knows that being in the car is one of the worst places to be when a tornado approaches, so we stopped at a lone gas station on the side of a two lane highway, taking cover in the only structure we could see in any direction. There seemed to be two tornadoes along our path, one headed for us from each direction, and as I stood among the gummy worms and packages of hot fries, there was no doubt in my mind that I was going to die. Since I’m sitting here writing this blog eight years later, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I overreacted to the situation, something that I’ve become quite good at over the years. Although I didn’t attend either of the colleges my mom and I visited on this trip, it was still a great memory that I feel very fortunate to have.