And I chose Dean.
That moment wasn’t love though. That was infatuation.
Love was when a few weeks later I received a package from the basketball office. My dad had sent my mediocre seventh-grade essay (complete with clip art illustrations) to Coach Smith who wrote me a letter and included a signed photo as a late 12th birthday present. He said he hoped to see me at Carolina one day.
Well, I’m here, Coach.
And I’ve spent the last four years learning that I never want to leave.
I know I’m not alone in this. I don’t know why UNC inspires such love in people. I can’t point out Chapel Hill’s distinguishing characteristic that makes people write poems, or songs or rambling columns about this place.
I don’t know what it is that makes us throw around terms like “University of the People,” and “The Carolina Way.” Terms that in any other context would be cliched and saccharine, and inspire nothing but eye rolls, somehow not only are justified, but seem like they don’t go far enough in capturing the magic of this place.
I don’t know what it is, but I know where it is.
It’s in the Pit at lunchtime on a sunny day when an a cappella group is singing, Gary is shouting, and you’re sitting on the steps picking out friends in the blur of faces that are rushing by for their afternoon classes.
It’s in the Dean Dome when we’re playing that dark blue school and the air is crackling and every possession is a matter of life and death and you don’t think you’ve ever felt hate like this before.
It’s in that spot on McCorkle between the Old Well and Davie Poplar where you can sit and look at the brick structures of Old East, Old West and South Building and the history of this place really hits you.
When you think about all the other idealistic 20-somethings who have sat in this same spot and been inspired by these same buildings, and your head starts swimming with the thought of how many more idealistic 20-somethings will sit here after you.
It’s there when you walk by Hill Hall and hear pianos playing. It’s there when you sit on the steps of South Building and watch the moon come up over Wilson Library.
It’s in the first few bars of “Carolina in My Mind” — sung by James Taylor or the Clefs.
It’s in the first day that feels like Spring in the Arboretum and the first day that feels like Fall in Kenan Stadium.
It’s in the Campus Y, and Franklin Street, and HoJo, or wherever you’ve had a moment where you’re taken aback by where you are and who you’re with.
I can’t articulate or even comprehend everything this place has meant to me. Maybe I’ll never be able to. Maybe none of us can.
But it is love.