Stepping Back in Time
Yesterday afternoon I was twenty years old, walking the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater (UWW) during the final exam week. The prior sentence is true—except for one fact. I’m not twenty years old anymore—but I felt like it—as I walked the campus of my alma mater with my college roommate, Dan, decades after we graduated.
Dan has just completed a 40+ year career as a physician. I wrapped up my career as a senior marketing communications manager a few years ago, before serving as a career transition consultant.
We went back to UWW, to reflect on how our friendship began, catch up on the things we love most in life (our wives, adult kids, grandkids)—and to be grateful for achieving many of our hopes and dreams born on this campus.
We stopped by the College of Business & Economics first (Hyland). Back in the day, I was lucky to find a vending machine to buy a soft drink. Even bottled water wasn’t a thing. Today, inside the business building, just beyond the wide screen TVs broadcasting the latest business news and stock market data, is a Starbucks in the student lounge. We stopped for coffee and chatted on the adjacent patio.
Directly across from the business building, sits Upham Hall, the science building, where Dan had most of his classes. Here, Dan first started thinking about attending medical school to become an internist. He did not know then that he would be a top performer in medical school and one day, in addition to being an internist, would specialize in addiction recovery medicine to help so many.
In the center of the campus, in the middle of the mall, lies a brook-like fountain and spectacular landscaping, featuring an assortment of flowers, natural grasses, trees, and shrubs. In our day, it was concrete.
As we toured the campus, and witnessed the improvements, I felt the years click by like frames in an old Super 8 movie. Each click representing a different phase of my life. Click. I’ve graduated and landed my first job. Click. I got married. Click. I’m a young father. Click. I earned an MBA. Click. My kids are adults. Click. I have two daughters-in-law. Click. Grandkids. Click. I’m retiring from a marketing career. And click. I’m walking this campus again with my college roommate where we earned the degrees to launch our careers—which now live in our rearview mirrors.
It was fun to step back in time again. To be twenty again—or at least, feel like it.
Over dinner, Dan and I talked about how we would like to live the balance of our lives with intention, purpose, and no regrets. I enjoyed our conversation and the inspiration that comes from a decades-long friendship. A friendship that is full of “history” makes you feel “known.”
As the sun set on a gratifying day, Dan drove back to his home, and I walked back to the Anderson library and looked for the study carrel on the second floor along the south wall where I used to study almost fifty years ago. While there was plenty of new furniture, this section of the library still used the dated furniture from my era.
When I found it and sat down; I felt the full effect of the time warp. Reaching in my new backpack, I pulled out the manuscript of my third novel and started to edit it. After about thirty minutes, I let my mind drift back to sitting here so many years ago. It awakened feelings and memories long buried. I felt the distance between the past and the present shrink.
I stood, walked about twenty feet and pulled a novel from the bookshelf. It had my name on it. It was my first novel, The Glimpse, released in 2019. I flipped through the first pages to read the inscription I had written to UWW students who would read the book. I told them I once walked this campus, and I trusted they might enjoy this story. My hope for them was they, too, would chase their dreams.
"We create our tomorrows by what we dream today."
As a college student so many years ago, I never imagined my books would be on these bookshelves—and ironically, only a few feet from where I once studied. It was surreal. (One more thing to be thankful for.)
As I drove home after dark, I realized by stepping back in time with a close friend, I could detect a purpose and plan for my life—and more importantly, trust that purpose and plan—for the balance of it.
SOMETHING TO CHEW ON: When was the last time you returned to a place that played an instrumental role in your life? What could you learn about yourself, or your life, if you returned to that place for a visit? Was it once a turning point for you? Could it be now?
Photo: Yours truly sitting on the steps of my college dorm at UWW. Photo taken by Dan Sessler.