June 17, 2019 shona

“Exactly Where I Needed to Be” 
Frances King ’09 reflects on Reunion Weekend 2019

“I’d forgotten the crunch sound,” my friend said, as we walked up to Middle Yard. “The sound walking on the gravel makes”. She was right. I had forgotten the crunch sound.

Faculty and alumni sit on stillman porch

For more photos from reunion weekend, go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/131213331@N02/albums/72157709039339712

I hadn’t been to Midland in six years.

I had needed to understand who I was — separate from Midland. When I came back for the reunion I was plunged back into sounds and smells that it never occurred to me that I would miss or notice. Driving up and getting out of the car after a long drive, my rich memories of campus suddenly seemed like weak simulacra.  The smells and sounds I had forgotten hit my senses. As I wandered around campus noting what had changed– and what hadn’t changed– the old, familiar, feeling of potential excitement and adventure filled me filtered by a vague feeling that I might have homework or a job to do.

I am still extremely close with several people from my class. However, there were more I hadn’t seen since we sat on Stillman Porch at graduation ten years ago. As each person arrived, I was hugged by people with familiar smiles and unfamiliar hairstyles. We had all grown up, but our bond was still there. As anyone reading this will know, explaining Midland to somebody is hard, but I think explaining the relationships with Midland people is even harder. For two, three, or four years we ate together. We fought together. We cried together. We laughed together. We showered together. We did this while attending a school that is like no other in the world. Ten years passed so quickly, but we still cared deeply about each other. Throughout the reunion weekend we hiked, ate too much of Gloria’s delicious food, looked at old photos, worked in Stillman, camped, and lazed around at the Rez.

I had needed to separate myself from the campus, but I had never stopped being a Midlander and the class of 2009 had never really stopped being a part of my identity.

Midland isn’t something that you can leave behind. It is still one of the most profound parts of my life and has influenced who I am and how I live in the world. I go back to values expressed in the Midland mission when I have to make a decision in my life. I am confused by people who don’t immediately jump into work together as a community to make things happen. When I teach, I remind myself that all I really need is a student, a teacher (aka me) and an idea to do my job. I remind myself that it’s about needs not wants constantly.

Getting back into the car to drive back to my apartment in the middle of suburban sprawl was not easy. My car agreed and I had car trouble. Members of my class jumped in to help fix the problem. As we stood around watching my friend use Car Barn tools trying to fix the locked wheel in the hot sun with Grass Mountain in the background, I was struck that literally, no other school could produce this situation. Both the mechanical know-how, but also the care and support that was on display.

I won’t let six years go by without visiting Midland again. Going back to my reunion was scary and exhilarating, but it was a weekend out of time that reminded me of the person Midland, my classmates, my friends, and my teachers taught me I can be. Midland was exactly where I needed to be that weekend.

By Frances King ’09