After just a few days on campus, I was sure that nothing could be more infuriating than the crowds on McKinley Avenue during the first week of school. People were always slowly walking five across on sidewalks meant for three. Bicyclists were darting between people like video game starships and somehow only hitting a small percentage of those people.
And then, it almost all disappears. For one glorious week, everyone's seemingly nonexistent because their professors aren't taking attendance. It’s quieter, less hectic, and far easier to navigate.
Until it starts up again.
But it’s worse. Everyone looks older, for the most part. For a fraction of a second, I wonder if I’m living out my own Rip Van Winkle story where all of my classmates grew old and started families, and left me in the dust -- youthful dust, but dust nonetheless.
Phones flashing with each stagnant picture of the bell tower push that idea out of my mind. Everyone’s family must have gotten a memo to visit their students, except for mine.
At least there’s a football game to look forward to.
Both parents echo in a chorus, “Well I can’t come, I have work.”
Before it even came time, I was ready for another family-less Family Weekend. I watched as my friends, who I had hoped to spend the day with, went off one-by-one with their families for a nice meal at Scotty’s, while I was forced into the struggle of finding a tray in the Atrium and navigating through a flock of everyone's middle school-aged brothers to grab the last Chick-Fil-A sandwich.
While the mission was successful, the sandwich was limp and soggy. It was a sad mishmash of chicken and moist buns, with nary a pickle to have actually caused the dampness.
The stars aligned when I left, as a few of my friends passed by with their families, members of whom asked after passing me, "His folks didn't come again?"
Parentless and pickle-less. It could be worse.
Well, it's too late for my parents to start coming now and make it a nice tradition. But I have to sit and wonder if they would even enjoy it.
I neither need nor want a tray of hours-old instant eggs and greasy-soaked sausage patties in a crowded hall for brunch. My dad works in a kitchen and never fails to remind me that brunch is "just leftovers from breakfast that they need to get rid of."
I can't imagine my family doing a 5K. Even if we were that kind of family, my mom complains about how hot it is outside unless it's below 65 degrees. Hearing her complain about the heat through a 5K would be the cherry on top of it all.
Everyone is starting to feel that and question the weekend. Less families come to visit, and we're stuck with the family we've grown with at school. When so many of us whose parents ditched us for other plans get together, it becomes a family all its own, stitched together between the makeshift parking spaces during tailgate.
Celebrating my final Family Weekend is reserved for that hodgepodge group of like-minded friends with parents who are equally disinterested in coming to Muncie and drinking until sitting through a football game sounds like a chore.
This weekend has never been for my relatives. Between busy schedules and general disinterest, they wouldn't have enjoyed themselves.
All of college is very formative, and I’ve thanked my parents every step of the way for shaping me into the man I am. But the friends we make here, away from our families, shape us into the best people we can be.
This weekend is for time with my closest friends, those people we're faced with in a dorm hallway, clad only in a towel because our roommate locked us out. We stay up with them until the sun peeks in at us, making us wonder why we stayed up so late watching videos of people eating tubes of Icy Hot.
Those people that we take a leap of faith in trusting and end up loving and caring for like they were a lifelong friend don't just deserve a hazy Friday evening. They deserve a weekend all their own, and then some.