Both/And

I live across the street from fraternities.  Several of them.  And the house next door is (illegally) full of college guys as well.  Yes, it’s like the movie with Seth Rogen, except not at all really.  I get that a lot.

We live right next to the University of Kansas campus, at the top of a hill that students and professors (and the guy who sings along with what sound like pirate shanteys on his headphones) climb to go to class, feeling both exhausted and relieved when they reach our spot, the hard part of their walk being complete.  Each day, as my kids throw on backpacks, put on shoes and head out for school, countless college students are criss-crossing in front of our house.  Up and down the hill, crossing the street, zipping around the corner in their SUVs.   There’s an electric feeling when we step out the door, part of all that activity.  That movement and energy – the feelings of anticipation or dread for classes that each of those people carry with them.  We like it.  We like that buzz.

And then there’s the summer, when all the students have gone home.  The fraternities put their couches (inexplicably) in large shipping containers in the parking lots and head out.  Only a trickle of students climb our hill for summer school, with less enthusiasm, knowing they’re missing all the fun.  The mood is more calm, fitting the lazy days of sleeping in and wearing pjs til noon.  Riding bikes in the empty parking lot across the street.  Heading to the pool when the heat sets in and staying up late because we can.  The buzz is gone.  Mellow has taken it’s place, and we breathe it in.  We like it, too.  The buzz and the calm, both good in turn.  When the time is right and the mood in the air fits our own.

There’s a theme I’ve noticed in my writing, and my life.  Both/and.  I like a mix.  I like to travel, and I like coming home.  I like time with my kids and I like time to myself.  I like the difference of each season (although winter could end in January if you asked me) and welcome them when they arrive.  All traveling or staying put, all together or apart, all any one season and I’d freak out.  Get antsy for the other and ill at ease in my own skin.  I’d get grumpy (i.e. when February hits), and nobody wants that.  So I’m glad for both/and.  The electric buzz of college students in the fall, the lazy calm of summer, and the mix of all good things: escaping Kansas in February and traveling with my family.  Yay.  It’s a recipe for happiness in my world.  And I’m thankful for all the ingredients.

I think today, as the students head home with the joy and relief of a Friday afternoon, the frat boys play a game of pick up in the now full parking lot, and the pirate shantey guy belts out his odd-but-happy tunes, I’ll sit out front and soak it in.  Have a beer in their honor.  Thank them silently for their uplift, even if cans of Natty Light aren’t my preferred yard art.  They have their good points.  Namely being gone for the summer and back for the fall, making the atmosphere alive and fun and full of life.  I might not like the “buzz” of living near a college at 2:00 AM, but overall I’m glad for both/and.  Cheers, frat boys.

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