I Survived Madison, Wisconsin 2006-2010
The first time I laid eyes upon what would be my college campus was Labor Day 2005. I was on a tour to see which colleges I liked so I could start applying. Before the tour, my dad, brother and I wandered around State Street and eventually ended up on Langdon Street (Langdon is “Frat Row”). You could just feel the hangovers of the people celebrating the end of summer and the start of a new year.
Empty beer cans were all over, furniture was out on the sidewalk waiting to be picked up; the area looked a little decrepit.
And I smiled.
Right there and then, I fell in love with the Babylon of the Midwest: Madison, Wisconsin.
It’s been five years since my first introduction to the city. I graduated and it’s time to move on, and that means leaving my home of four years behind. It’s time to pour a 40 of Keystone Light (naturally) on the curb for my brief but memorable stint as a Badger.
When people say that Madison is its own separate world surrounded by Wisconsin, they aren’t wrong. The state isn’t exactly known for its progressive views, and is stereotyped by beer, cheese, the Packers, and hunting. That’s all mostly true. If Wisconsin is one giant family, then Madison is the hippie kid who decided to go to art school. The Capitol City is the black sheep of the family, with its crazy ideas and free-thinking residents.
I’ll miss the Terrace, truly one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. I’ll miss walking everywhere. I’ll miss the atmosphere of Badger game days, where the city turns red and drinking at 8am is considered “late.” I’ll miss Halloween weekend, though I was only there for the sponsored, watered-down version. The first few weeks of school, when everyone is just so elated to be back. The Hippie Fruit Stand. The road trips we took. Using a fake ID. The bar scene. Every single one of my friends being within walking distance. The dirty, dirty dorms, where I made those friends. Hell, I’ll even miss the hangovers, where so many ridiculous ideas were thought of and brought to life.
In short, I’ll miss everything.
Of course, there were bad times too. Heaps of stress from group projects. Deadlines and late-night study sessions, all of us eagerly trying to cram every last bit of knowledge into our heads before midterms. Run-ins with Madison’s Finest. Friendships fizzling out and ending. Loss and grief when we lost one of our own. Bad classes with boring teachers. But those aren’t the things I’m going to remember.
I’ll remember the raw excitement of being in a completely new city, surrounded by new people and new things to do; that feeling of wonder is so underrated and addictive. I’ll remember my first college party. I’ll remember spending most of my time freshman year at 408 as one of the “little ones” to our older friends who taught me everything I know about life in college. Discussing if the beggars had a “changing of the guards” (I’m convinced they do) over lunch. All of the breakfasts we went to, looking disheveled but still laughing like crazy.
I’ll remember the fun library trips with friends where no work was done and the only goal was to get the other person to laugh out loud. The Dane County Farmer’s Market. “Dexter” Sundays, and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” Thursdays. Mudsliding on a rainy night. The snow day, which sent approximately 400% of the student body to the liquor store within 20 minutes of the announcement. All four Mifflins. Meeting the misfits I’m honored to call my friends (many of which I met through the magic of the Soulja Boy dance. They had bad enough judgment to let me hang around afterwards). Bonfires at Picnic Point. These things will stay with me forever.
Most of all, I’ll miss the people. Every single experience I’ve had in this city is more vivid and positive because of the people I was with. This city breeds a certain sort of person; they are the dreamers and optimists who really believe in their ability to create change and inspire hope. They’re the rebels with a cause. In a way, Madison is a hotbed of Millennial Spirit: Entrepreneurial, smart, hopeful, and rebellious. Balancing work and play (never let anyone tell you there isn’t any time for play) is an art here, and we are very, very good at it.
I do think I’ve made some progress since my pre-graduation post. I’ve started to learn things that’ll actually help me in the so-called “real world,” not just buzzwords and theoretical stuff. I’m writing more frequently. I’m more open and outgoing, and I’m ready to show the world what I can do. I’m learning a lot and even becoming an optimist about my future, which I think is due to my time in Madison. After all, if I survived four years here, there’s really nothing I can’t do.
There isn’t anything like living in Madison, Wisconsin. I know that I am forever changed because of my time in the city and the people I interacted with. At job interviews, I’m always asked why I picked UW-Madison. My response is usually “it just sort of happened, but I can’t imagine any other life.” It’s a sad thought to be leaving everything and everyone behind, but I know that I’ll always have a second home in south-central Wisconsin.
Have any memories from Madison? Put ‘em in the comments!