by Laura Boswell ’94
Recently, my phone’s message light blinked green-green-green above an impossibility: a message from my 20-year-old nephew, Hunter. And not his usual grunt response to some sports story I texted him:
—“Tom Brady just threw a touchdown so hard the CHEERLEADERS CAUGHT FIRE!!!”
No, this was, like, full sentences. He was going on a Kenyan mission trip, with a stopover in London. He knew I had studied there during my Centre days and wanted to know what sites to squeeze in.
So I advised him on key landmarks: Big Ben, Parliament, Piccadilly Circus’ neon thrum. But I realized that my happiest London memories weren’t those famous places, but the tiny moments, the ones you don’t scratch into a travel journal. You’re not having tea with the queen; you’re sitting in the dorm room window with your roommate Lynn, swinging your feet and feeding the geese below with crust from the all-you-can-eat buffet pizza you pilfered under your jackets because you’re so Pound-poor.
Laura Boswell ’94 (right) and her friend, Lynn, on a post-Centre trip to Miami.
Yet that window is where you become best friends, even today.
My Centre career as a whole was much the same. Of course I enjoyed my classes–even edified my shipmates with a dormant lode of Humanities training on Ionic columns during a recent Greece trip (you are welcome!).
But what I remember most are Keeneland’s foamy spring afternoons, and my volleyball team FINALLY beating Midway College my senior year and running the Flame (full-on nekkid) in celebration. I remember professors who came to our games, ate with us in Cowan. In other words, the community.
Centre wasn’t perfect; there was unkindness, there was heartbreak. There were times when I wondered if I’d made the right choice. Being emotionally…prickly serves me well as a grown-up writer; it’s not so good at 19 when you can’t sneeze without 1,000 people knowing.
But then I’d join my friends on our Goodwill couches and watch “90210,” then go raid the Deke or Phi Delt or SAE living rooms or—anyone who was awake, frankly—and dance. Dance! Hip-hop, Bob Marley, “The Time Warp”—it didn’t matter. Each group of friends was different—their music, their hometowns, their beliefs, but we were all in it together on that tiny, dry campus.
Of course we were happy then. So why does the Alumni Factor rank Centre alums so happy now? What makes us so special? Like any college alums, we’ve had to endure life’s pitfalls: job searches, relocation, divorces, deaths, layoffs (including Careerbuilder, for me. CAREERBUILDER!).
This last year wasn’t exactly banner for The Boz. A “reorganization” at the non-profit where I’d worked for a decade led to 10 months of joblessness for this single female writer in an economy as stable as Miley Cyrus. Happy? Ha.
But even as I contemplated moving home with my mother and knitting dog-fur sweaters, my Centre determination kicked in, and so did its community. I launched a sports blog, successful in no small part due to my Centre friends who were there to laugh, to cry, to send my resume to Pluto if they had to because that’s what we did for each other then, and now.
I’ve got nothing against big schools—Hunter makes good grades, loves his University of Tennessee buddies. But when he soon enters a difficult workforce, I worry a school of 30,000 won’t offer Centre’s pleasant paradox: the smaller we are, the harder we fight for each other, ourselves. With Centre we can rely on that same community we built in those classrooms, on the courts, on those crappy couches. I just don’t think you get that anywhere else but the geographical center of Kentucky.
Because I live—and yes, work again, thank you—in Washington DC, testing myself every day alongside, arguably, the world’s best brains (trust me, it’s Washington, just ask them). And winning. At least I think so, thanks to Centre.
Then I go home, crank up my Bel Biv Devoe, eat all the pizza I want, and call Lynn. That’s happiness. Big happiness, from a small school, then and now.
Laura Boswell is a Washington, DC-based journalist covering travel, sports, and culture for outlets including ESPN.com, The Washington Post, and The Travel Channel. She writes a sports blog for women, The Ladies Room, and currently works as a marketing specialist for the National Association of Home Builders. She can be reached on Facebook, at @lauraeboswell or firstname.lastname@example.org.