Standing in the center of the walkway, I found myself staring anxiously at the building before me: the University of Memphis at Lambuth. It was my first day back to college since graduating from Jackson State Community College a little over a year before, and I reluctantly confessed to myself that I was a bit nervous. I couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason for this nervousness; I had been through the “first day of school” more times than I could count, yet I still felt the same anxiety as I had in previous years. As I headed towards the double front doors with fellow students, I wondered if they felt the same.
I hadn’t planned on attending university in Jackson. I had convinced myself that I would gain more independence and maturity if I left for a larger city, that this would prepare me for life beyond college. Going away meant being on my own. It meant creating fun, adventurous experiences in a new and exciting place. I kept telling myself this is what I wanted, what I needed to push me a little further out of my introverted shell. But going through the pros and cons list in my mind, I realized remaining where I was might actually be better for me, a learning experience I hadn’t imagined looming on my horizon.
But standing in front of Lambuth, I was still unsure if I had made the right decision. After leaving Jackson State, I gave myself a choice of working or continuing my education for a bachelor’s degree. With the economy in such a bad place, the job search was not easy, and after months of looking, I found myself stocking shelves and ringing up customers, wondering what the future held for me. Since high school I had developed a plan to get my associate degree, move on to university to explore my love of writing, and earn a Bachelor’s in English. I knew deep inside that I wanted to take my passion for writing and make a living with it, but I wasn’t sure how I could do this.
After a year clouded with uncertainty and frustration, I had finally reached the conclusion that I had started with long ago as a child: I wanted to be a writer. So I decided going to university was the next step to fulfilling this wish. In my search for the right college, I began to fear that I couldn’t find the professional writing minor in English that I wanted to take up. And then I came across Lambuth.
The school had just become a part of the University of Memphis four years previously, and their list of majors had expanded. I was relieved and excited when I saw they now offered the exact minor I was looking for. Being only a short distance from home and having the ability to graduate in two years, there was simply no better choice for me.
The small community suits me perfectly since I enjoy smaller classes with closer relationships with my teachers and peers, which has helped my learning experience flourish. I especially enjoy the walk around campus, watching the sun spill through the canopy of tree leaves above me, passing the statue of the blue and gray tiger near the chapel. I find myself appreciating the beauty of the campus while I run errands for work. As someone who struggles with health problems, having everything within walking distance is easier.
I don’t know if I would have adapted well had I gone away to a larger college. Lambuth’s close-knit atmosphere caters more to my introverted personality, which might have felt overwhelmed in a crowded, unfamiliar place. I haven’t lived in Jackson all my life, but in the ten years I have been here, its familiarity has become a kind of comfort to me.
In the past, I had been prone to limiting my college experience to coming and going to class, but working at Lambuth has given me the opportunity to be more involved with what’s taking place on campus. Through their career services center, I was able to land a part-time clerical student worker position that I could keep until graduation, which has made buying textbooks and school supplies much less stressful. I’ve found myself participating in unique activities through work; just last week I was asked to decorate the new Christmas tree in the lobby of Lambuth’s main building.
I’ve met many wonderful people who have helped these last college years become some of my most cherished experiences. As a student worker I enjoy helping people, and those that I work with always make me feel appreciated and welcome. If Lambuth had closed before it was able to become part of the Memphis campus, my college experience would have been very different. I would have missed out on the relationships I’ve built here, and I wouldn’t have experienced all the little adventures along the way.
So as I entered Lambuth on that summer day not so long ago, I felt something beyond the nervousness of a new beginning—it was excitement. It was relief. I now had a pathway to a goal I’ve been wanting to achieve for years. And I’m just a semester away from walking across the stage, degree in hand, as the latest chapter of my life comes to a close and a new one begins.
Jordan Anderson is a senior at the University of Memphis at Lambuth majoring in English. Although she was born in Baltimore, Maryland, she has lived in Jackson for ten years. She enjoys writing, reading, and playing electric piano.