Senior Column: Appreciate UA while you’re here

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Senior Column: Appreciate UA while you’re here

Chandler Gory, Contributing Writer

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“I hope you learn to love this place as much as I do.”

My dad sent me that text after Alabama beat Clemson University for the 2015 national championship. It was my freshman year and I was a member of the Million Dollar Band, euphoric off my love for Alabama football and the win. But at the time, I didn’t know if I would ever come to love The University of Alabama as my father does.

My father, Rich Gory, met my mother, then Tracy Cloninger, when they were both undergraduates at the University in the 90s. His love for The University of Alabama – namely Alabama football – is staggering. I would rank Rich’s greatest loves as Tracy, my brother and I and Alabama football. Not necessarily in that order.

I don’t remember what I replied to him that balmy, January night in Arizona, with the adrenaline running high. But I do know that I have come to love The University of Alabama in my own way.

It took time, though.

In high school, I didn’t want to go to Alabama. I didn’t want to be my parents. Who does? I wanted to form my own identity. I was only 18 years old and desperately trying to figure out whom I was, trying to parse out my place in the world.  I was unironically (maybe a little ironically?) angsty and dealing with depression and anxiety. I thought staying in Alabama, the state I was born in, was a death sentence. I pictured myself never leaving this place, never escaping the humid summers and drawling-accented masses of Southerners whose core values felt so different from my own.

I was wrong.

My time at The University of Alabama has been precious. Did I always use it productively? Maybe not, but I’ve met people who will stay lifelong friends and had doors opened for me that I always figured would be closed to a girl from Birmingham, Alabama.

Make sure to savor your time here, because it goes by in an instant.

I was at a late-night study session this week – my last finals week – and found myself walking across campus nearly alone, something that doesn’t happen often. The sky was a velvety, clear black with a few stars winking at me as I craned my neck up to take it in. The wind ruffled the trees, carrying the scent of fresh baked bread from the bread factory on Hackberry Lane, mixing with the smell of flowers and grass. The music from Rounders was pulsing lightly. I realized I was walking across The Quad for the last time as a student. I stopped for a second, breathed in and out and glanced at the landmarks that had defined my last four years of life: Denny Chimes, Gorgas, Bryant Denny looming in the distance.

My time at The University of Alabama has been precious, and yours will be too. Don’t take a second of it for granted.

The next time you’re on The Quad, stop for a moment and take in your surroundings. Remember where you are, who you are and take a second to breathe. Maybe the wind will be blowing just right and you’ll smell that particular mix of fresh bread, blooming flowers and fresh-cut grass.