It’s been 2845 days since I moved into my freshman dorm – Kenan Room 103 – and began calling you home. 2845 days since the best years of my life to date began, and for that, I am immensely grateful for each and every one of those 2845 days. I’ve called Chapel Hill home for eight years now (the longest I’ve ever lived in one place) and to leave you and this little town is, in a word, bittersweet.
Those days saw me walk into my first college class, Econ 101, where there were more students in one classroom than there had been at my entire school K-12. I spent sunny days on the Quad, rainy days in Graham Memorial, study days in Davis Library and game days in Kenan Stadium and the Dean Dome. I rushed Franklin Street and jumped over bonfires when we won the National Championship in 2009 and cried like a baby when we lost in 2016. I wrote countless articles for my journalism degree and blog posts for my little corner of the internet. I watched a meteor shower on the top of Kenan Stadium, swam in Bynum fountain and explored the tunnels that run under campus – even though I was freaking terrified. In college I took over 35,000 pictures and I’m certain I’ve doubled that since graduating four years ago. A lot of those pictures were taken on your campus.
I met, fell in love with, got engaged to and married my best friend in Chapel Hill. He proposed on a bench by the Old Well, the same spot where we had our first kiss. Earlier this month I watched him walk across the stage at Memorial Hall (where I’ve seen the Nutcracker twice, the Alvin Ailey Dance Company and numerous concerts) to accept his second degree from UNC and the new title of “doctor.”
I’ve run hundreds of miles around campus and town while training for two marathons, three half-marathons and dozens of sorority 5ks. And, of course, sprinting to Franklin Street after winning big games were always the best runs :) And while I’d like to think of myself as an athlete, you’ve also seen me get hit in the face with the following sports equipment: basketball, volleyball, football, frisbee and soccer ball.
I’ve returned to Chapel Hill from 15 countries and 17 states. And I’ve called 5 different dorms/houses/apartments home. I’ve called 10 amazing women roommates and have been welcomed into the Carolina Family from day one. The people I’ve met here have changed my life, and I’m certain I’ll know many of them until I’m old and wearing tacky sweaters.
I started a business on the big yellow couch in my house my senior year of college. And for nearly 5 years now, I’ve watched it grow to something that far exceeded my expectations. I’ve photographed happy couples and hundreds of graduates all over campus. I’ve had the privilege of witnessing vows in the Arboretum and celebrations in fields on the outskirts of town. I’ve photographed people that love you, as well as some who like that other place down the road more.
I’ve craved YoPo, fallen in love with the blueberry wheat beer at TopO, collected blue cups from He’s Not, eaten my body weight in pancakes at Breadman’s and spent hours studying, meeting potential clients and sipping coffee at Foster’s. And when I lived with 6 girls in a brick house by Battle Forest, we made a shameful amount of baked goods and my housemate, Hilary, and I regularly ate brownie batter straight from the bowl. I’ll never understand how none of us weighed 600 pounds when we graduated! It’s safe to say that Chapel Hill has fed me well over the last eight years.
Most of all, I’ve seen the Lord write a story greater than I ever could have imagined 2845 days ago. One filled with the highest of highs and lowest of lows. One filled with adventure and risk and tremendous joy. One that has led me to love this slice of Southern Heaven more than I can even express. Carolina, you priceless gem, thank you for your oak trees, rolling hills, game days and the best color known to man. I’ll love you forever.
Always a Carolina girl,
Hark the sound of Tar Heel voices
Ringing clear and True
Singing Carolina’s praises
Hail to the brightest Star of all
Clear its radiance shine
Carolina priceless gem,
Receive all praises thine.
I’m a Tar Heel born I’m a Tar Heel bred
And when I die I’m a Tar Heel dead.
So it’s RAH, RAH, Car’lina ‘lina
RAH, RAH, Car’lina ‘lina
RAH, RAH, Car’lina
(Go to Hell Duke!)
Emily is a destination film wedding photographer. She loves natural light and is available to travel worldwide.