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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Column: If you need me, I’ll be hiding in Ellis

A desk in Ellis is my link to the past.

Nate Atkins

April 14, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

I’ve found a place in Ellis Library I like to call my own. It’s a wooden desk next to a window in the corner of one of the creepy stacks. It’s not much, but it feels special.

Back home, I have a wooden desk that matches the size of my queen bed. I pawned it off Craigslist when I felt desperate to buy a writing haven. I love writing from that desk, but I can’t do it all the time. Sometimes I need something even the coziness of home can’t provide. Sometimes I need home to be somewhere else.

My first home away from home was on this campus. It was Hatch Hall, room 734, but it was also much more than that. Across the hallway were my best friends. Down the hallway and around the corner was my lounge. Down the stairs was my guilty pleasure of Baja Grill. And out the front doors were all kinds of other places that also felt like they belonged to me.

It doesn’t feel that way any more. Impromptu runs to the MU Bookstore or the Student Recreation Complex never quite fit the definition. They must account for time walking or finding a place to park, and alone, they often can’t justify a trip to campus. They are a shaded-in block of a jam-packed schedule that has made college feel a little too much like real life.

After freshman year, I moved out of Hatch Hall and into the Grove. I hated everything about it. Mostly, I hated the fact that it disconnected me from the place I wanted to be.

That’s why I moved to Ninth Street last year and then renewed the lease for this year. My three best friends from the seventh floor of Hatch Hall live with me, and we are a straight line from campus. It’s been a fantastic balance between on-campus buzz and off-campus freedom. But it’s just not the same as living on the seventh floor of a building overlooking campus, a view that reminds you with every passing moment that this is a time to still be a kid.

We tell ourselves we know how to move on, but if you ever gave a damn about the place you’re leaving, you know that can’t be true. You’ll continue to search for links to the past, parts of a former life you can still somewhat be to tell yourself it isn’t really gone for good.

I come back to this creaky wooden desk in a hidden corner of Ellis Library because I’m trying to reinvent a life that flew by a little too fast, and I think that if I stay here, crammed between a stack of books and a window overlooking campus, I might never have to leave and that college might last forever.

Today, I felt the need to go back to that desk. I packed up my things, drove to Turner Garage and walked the usual route into and through Ellis. But something was different.

This time, the familiar path felt like a maze. The two giant rooms that have staircases to the desk were closed for renovations. I had to attack it from the east end. Each door seemed to lead to a dead end. Finally, I found one where the bookshelves didn’t seem to end. I eventually crossed through and made it to the desk.

This time, someone else was in the seat. I turned around, trudged back through the obstacle course and looked for a new place to write.

For as many days as you have left on campus, try to enjoy how big and comfortable your home feels. A day will come when it will no longer belong to you.

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