This is Where Everything Changed

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Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory painting by Salvador Dali
The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. (Image/
It was unexpected.

It really was.

This is where everything changed.

That’s where I met my wife.

That’s my old apartment.

Whoa. Look at all these new buildings.

Whoa. Our freshman-year dorm is still using the same furniture.

Whoa. They banned tobacco on campus, and we used to smoke right there and there and over there.

The Taco Bell with the drive-thru we used to walk through four or five deep at 3 a.m. is gone, as well as the neighboring corner gas station where we used to buy cigarettes and cheap beer. In its place is a large new commercial development with nice restaurants, a huge Barnes & Noble campus book store, and a Starbucks.

It wasn’t the memories that shook me up, though there are plenty to go around.

It’s the time.

While I was looking over there, the world kept changing over here.

People were walking in and out of new buildings that weren’t supposed to be there. They either didn’t know the buildings weren’t supposed to be there, or had already adjusted.

Things were the same.

And things were different.

We live here in this place. And in other places the hands on the clock keep moving, and everyone living there keeps flipping calendar pages, and younger people move in and make choices and then more things change.

Things always change.

I was just a college student back before the world changed. Just a kid from a small town an hour and a half’s drive from campus.

I didn’t know where I was. A place teeming with knowledge and resources. A vast library. Thought leaders. Curious minds about that, and this, and other things.

I didn’t ask very many to share knowledge with me. When they tried to share it in classes I sometimes attended, I mostly thought about the fun things I was going to do later.

Maybe if I’d read more books and asked more questions and thought more deeply back when I was a student there, I wouldn’t have felt the shock.

Maybe I’d have known better.

Some of my friends from college still live near the city.

One is married with three kids. I’ve known his wife for years, but I’d never met his children.

Here’s this guy I have all of these memories with. And then—bam!—my entire worldview of him changes with an overnight stay at his home.

Three girls, ages 12, 9, and 5. Kind and beautiful, all of them.

The 5-year-old is magic and missing her two front teeth, and I wanted to clone her so I could have one, but don’t tell the 9-year-old because she’s great too, and knows many things about a couple of make-your-own-lip-syncing-music-video apps she thought I needed to have.

I told the sisters I was too shy to make lip-syncing videos, which probably sounded like a lie since their father and I were consuming beer and tequila the night before and seemed presumably less shy.

One of my friends corrected me: “You’re not shy. You’re self-conscious.”

Hmmm. True.

But back over here are these little people who, to me, didn’t even exist five seconds earlier, but now they do, and I love them, but probably not enough to make lip-syncing music videos to share on their favorite apps.

I was 18 when I went to college, but since I could barely remember the first four years of my life, it’s kind of like being 14.

And now 14 more years have passed.

I don’t know where the time and memories go. Like something we drop into a bottomless pit to eventually forget a little bit how things look and feel as they fall further and further away.

Walking through the center of campus on a hot, summer day, there were very few people around. Some incoming freshmen and their parents visiting for orientation. I took photos of this and that. I stopped in various places to sit and soak it in.

All of the familiarity to reacquaint myself with.

And all of the strange and new to get to know.

I would never have stopped to read an inscription back when I was a student there. In the center of campus was a small monument displaying the university seal. On the side was a quote from the university president back in the 1930s when the campus first opened.

I don’t have the quote.

But it talked about the students. It talked about me.

How this place was supposed to help students go on to do things in this world. Something about light. About hope. About truth.

After all of my wasted time and personal failings, what would the collective brain trust think about me?

Proud? Embarrassed? Indifferent?

I don’t think they’d care. I don’t think it would matter if they did. These are just the things I think about.

Because I’m not shy. Just self-conscious.

But not so much then. Not in that different time and place and life all those years ago.

Whoa. That’s where we used to throw the best keg parties.

Whoa. Our favorite old bars are now someone’s favorite new bars.

Whoa. That’s where I used to write with a pen and a notebook.

This is where I dreamed about tomorrow.

This is where yesterday became today.

This is where everything changed.

It really was.

It was unexpected.

28 thoughts on “This is Where Everything Changed”

    1. It made my brain hurt as it tried to process the gravity of all that’s happened on account of just a few choices and serendipitous moments during my college years there.

      A place I’d never really been before moving there, and a place I’ve never really visited since. That was only my second time on campus in 14 years.

      And I was totally shocked by the changes, and how impactful they were as I digested all of the new things I was seeing, both there and within my friends’ home.


  1. It’s amazing, and humbling. Things like that always make me feel a little less immortal. Like, how can this place still exist and move on a change without me? It’s always stayed the same in your mind. And you realize these young people are/or are about to have similar, but unique experiences, that they have no idea will be both eternal and fleeting at the same time.

    1. Matt, I also want you to know that what you are doing right now is still good. I have great hope and faith that in another 15 years, when you go visit old haunts that you will be filled with contentment and knowledge that you did things right.

  2. “I’m not shy, I’m self-conscious”. Sadly this hits home for me. But I haven’t figured out how to “let it go”…#workinprogress

  3. Just beautiful writing. When reading this post I could relate to the careless feeling of being a college student again. It was great. You captured it well. Nothing can really prepare you for ‘real life’. I wish society had a better way of transitioning people into the real world, or maybe it was just me. I don’t know. Nice post.

  4. This is gorgeous. You have a knack of being able to articulate the hard-to-define feelings. I have yet to muster the courage to take a tour of some stops along the route of my youth. Some day. Or not.

  5. Ahh, love this, Matt. Well done.

    We live in my husband’s home town. They tore down the hospital he was born in and than his elementary school. They changed the name of his football team. Everything’s changed, but there are ghosts here and memories and it all begins to feel very surreal to us.

    You’re getting older and that’s a good thing. It sure beats the alternative! I remember one day I just woke up and I felt like I’d been transported into a science fiction novel. It was very disorienting. My elderly friends assure me this is quite normal. For much of our lives we see the world through our own experiences and than suddenly one day we look up and start to see the world as it really is. It marches on without us when we aren’t even looking.

  6. Just wait till you are staring down 60 years of life. Wait till your grandchildren are asking what it was like when you were their age and the answer is actually frightening.

    Change is constant, inspiring, horrible, laughable and sometimes even great and good fun. We always think we forgot something, I promise someone or something will remind us.

    1. Thank you, Donkey!

      After one of the busiest weeks of my life, I’ve spent three days blissfully ignoring everything in life without a deadline attached to it.

      I’m thinking I should write something here. Maybe today.

      Hope you’re well, miss.

      1. Blissfully ignoring things is one of my favorite pastimes. Hope your soaking it in 🙂 …PS we’d love a new post. I’m getting a little jittery from the withdrawal. 🙂

      2. Thanks Matt! I do like new posts from you, but remember that you don’t owe them to anyone. 🙂

        Hey Linbo, yeah I decided to celebrate a little along with you! I listened to Whitney Houston’s (RIP!) performance of The Star-Spangled Banner on Youtube. 🙂

        1. Aww… Whitney Houston is great. I have a friend who pretty much has a shrine made for her :). I’m not celebrating too much today- I’m doing an independent studies class where I’m doing a research/review of the evidence paper for mental health screening in schools. Ive haven’t done a lot of research, and am finding it daunting. It’s a lot of information that I have to sift through. :/. And it doesn’t help that the expectation is this will be a lead in to a possibly publishable paper by next year. Makes my stomachs do flip flops.
          I feel like I’m on my own with it :P.
          Anyway- I’m celebrating on the inside..:) (and distracting myself whenever possible..:) …

      3. At the risk of being annoying, I just feel like I missed a chance to ask if your busy week was also a good one. ..Or at least tell you I wished it were a good one.. :). Trying this new authenticity suit out. It’s kind of snug in a few places.. 🙂 Peace. Happy 4th!

    2. Hey Donkey! 🙂 There’s always a reason to celebrate, right ? 😉 Thank you for celebrating along with us 🙂

  7. Sounds just like my college. If you’re talking about UT, I remember that Taco Bell well.

    1. Hey Pike. Are you talking about Iniversity of Texas or University of Tennessee. If it’s Texas: “Hook ’em!” 😉

  8. My husband didnt take me to see my mother who was a 7 hour drive away. She was dying and i have poor vision. He criticized my going without knowing if my sister would let me stay there with her. I texted him mother died, he texted ” I’m sorry.” No call. I told him when i was returning. The bus station was a half hour drive for him. He said to get a cab. How heartless can one oerson be?

  9. Hi Matt,

    I was in the process of leaving a note about an article in today’s New York Times entitled
    “A Former Porn Addict Now Teaches Restraint.” I hope you will find time to read it and perhaps use it in one of your blogs.

  10. OMG- I Miss You So Much!!
    Bawwahaahaa ?!
    Just kidding- sorta.
    There is a sever lack of the Matt Fray humor and perspective that I’ve come to rely upon.
    Time to cut back, no doubt.
    But wanted you to know you were missed!
    Hope all is well!

      1. Whoo.. Racism in 2016. Too heavy?
        I was also thinking about/ wondering if it really is covert sexism , or gender difference, that breaks down relationships. Do the same issues happen in same sex relationships?
        Hmmm… Don’t know if either of those are extremely helpful, but that’s what I’ve got 🙂
        Did you have another out of town adventure?

      2. How about the need to see things from another persons perspective (empathy) to nullify all the “ism’s” of the world?
        How we don’t live in a world all our own and if we do live in an world insulated from things and people that are different than ourselves how that doesn’t lead to newness, or innovation. It just stays the same- ugh! Static, stagnant and dead…

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