Learning to fly: A love letter to KU

Posted on May 12, 2016 in Alumni News and News


Remember Matt Gowen? We featured Gowen, j’95, on our blog back in February around Valentine’s Day. A writer and team lead for humorists at Hallmark Cards, it’s no wonder he tends to wax sentimental when thinking about KU. We all do. The difference is, writers put pen to paper, as he did in this contributed essay which captures the feeling we all once had prior to leaving the nest. Enjoy! –David Johnston

Fraser Hall from the stairs
One morning in the spring of my senior year, I remember walking up the hill behind Fraser Hall with the sun coming up, not a bit of wind, not a cloud in the sky.

As I made my way past Watson Library toward Murphy Hall, I stopped at the top of the path near Stauffer-Flint, where I’d spent so much time that year cranking out the UDK with my fellow J-Schoolers.

Then I stopped and just stood there.

For several minutes.

This was before all humans had cell phones, so I couldn’t reach in my pocket and pretend to be staring at the screen, which is today’s default response when we have random moments of quiet. With nothing to distract me, I began to scan the horizon, drinking in the panorama of Mount Oread and taking long, slow, deep breaths, to the point where passersby possibly thought I was a stealth marketer for nasal spray.

Then I said to myself: “Remember this moment.”

Silly, I know. But I wanted to be deliberate about it because it felt iconic, that sense that you’ve fully, finally become your own person.

I’ve had other iconic moments in my life since then: getting that first job as a reporter, my wedding day, my kids being born, and being interviewed by the Alumni Association (!) because I’ve been writing valentines and other stuff for Hallmark for the past 15 years.

But there’s nothing quite like that sense of suddenly owning your life, that feeling that from now on it’s Me, Inc.

The future? Yep, there it is, right in front of you. It’s packed with promise and possibility and all the things people say at commencement.

But before you walk through the Campanile and down the hill, there’s a moment. A deliriously perfect limbo that you’ll never experience again.

You’ve rocked some classes, maybe scuffled through a few others, possibly had an internship or two. You’ve probably had a few beverages at (fill-in-the-blank favorite bar), thrown confetti inside Allen Fieldhouse, sat on the hill for a football game, bowled at the Union (sadly, no more), seen brilliant works at Spencer Museum, watched incredible Lied Center performances from Broadway musicals to Rock Chalk Revue.

In short, you’ve mastered the art of being a Jayhawk.

And that’s when it hits you: it’s time to take that mastery out into the world!

For me, it was that Tuesday morning in March more than 20 years ago. And in that moment, I could see the endless ways my life could unfold. I thought about the many decisions I could make, stretching out to infinity. But not yet! Because in that moment, all those choices were still my perfect little secrets. The world did not know anything about me yet. My story had not yet been written.

The path was right there in front of me.

All I had to do was take the next step.

But just for a second, as I gazed out at the bright blue sky, it seemed like I might be able to do more than that.

Because maybe, just maybe, being a Jayhawk teaches you how to fly.

—Matt Gowen, j’95

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