Thirty years ago this week, I was sorrowfully engaged in the final examinations that would culminate my undergraduate career. For the majority of my time beneath the oaks at Ole Miss, I had longed for the time when I would see the statue of Johnny Reb at end of University Avenue in my rear view mirror and finally get on with my adult life. Not a natural student, mostly due to a severe case of ADHD--for which I would have most likely been drugged into a zombie had I been born 30 years later--I detested the prison of the classroom. For the first couple of years at Ole Miss, I struggled to stay in good standing.
But, beginning in my Junior year, a certain transformation began to take place in my outlook. I was becoming a Mississippian. Like an ancient amphibian emerging from the ooze of a vast primordial swamp, I was evolving from a lower life form that had existed as a nomadic denizen of the deep into a citizen of an island of higher consciousness. After spending my previous life as a military dependent unable to claim a hometown, I was beginning to identify with North Mississippi and thereby reconnecting with my lineage. Now I was not so anxious to leave.
I did leave, in body, if not totally in spirit. Thirty years ago, next week, a diploma was handed to me and the gold bars of a second lieutenant were pinned to the epaulets of my Marine officer's dress whites. For the next three decades I resumed my itinerant life, wandering between temporary abodes. But, I had a patch of territory to call home, and I touched base with it more and more often the longer I was away from it. My sons' matriculation at Ole Miss, beginning eleven years ago, gave me even more reason to return regularly, and the more I returned the deeper the reconnection became.
My neighbors most likely still, and will for some time I'm sure, consider me an outsider--a newcomer to these hills. That's okay. I know I'm home--I have arrived back at my Life's (with a capital "L") starting point.