Yesterday I Fell In Love With Wake Forest

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Staring at Wait Chapel yesterday morning, the focal point and shining symbol of spirituality and hope on Wake Forest’s campus, I became struck by the sheer beauty of the image, the appealing blend of classy, tasteful, and simple all in one majestic and unique architectural wonder.

In the background of this arresting image hovered a perfectly Carolina blue sky pierced by morning sun; in the foreground Scotts green grass everywhere decorating the Quad.

Love is abstract in some ways but never ambiguous. When you’re in love, you know you are. It’s a feeling of certainty.

I hadn’t thought about whether I had ever been in love with Wake Forest yet realized I was yesterday as I took a photo of the chapel with absolutely no one else on the Quad, just me, the silence, and the image, students all in their dorms, probably sleeping in as they usually do on weekends.

For 42 years this has been a place I loved, the Quad, Wait Chapel, the grass, and the people I met as an undergraduate and am still friends with — and if I’m being honest in love with today and forever.

Serendipitous Moment

I went to campus yesterday morning for a gathering of several of these lifelong friends who played rugby as Wake undergrads. While eating breakfast, a guy I hadn’t expected to see at all – trekking all the way from the West Coast – walked into the room.

There strolled Rumby. I got up, yelled “Rumby,” and ran over and gave him a big spontaneous hug. Rumby was one of the most upbeat and inspirational guys I met in college. Happy, always up for fun, never mean, secure in himself, always game for laughing, smart but never arrogant, insightful but not overbearing, a Florida easiness he exuded always including yesterday.

I was genuinely fired up to see this friend, a guy I hadn’t seen since the 2008 Orange Bowl when Wake Forest played in that game during an amazing football season.

Fifteen years had passed. Besides a random short email now and then, we hadn’t stayed in touch much.

But nothing about the two of us and the enthusiasm to see each other changed our excitement to hang out yesterday. Energized by this serendipity, we strolled around the Quad, caught up, got a cool beverage, talked about his kids and mine, our careers, you know, life.

I told him I didn’t think when I graduated I could ever make it as a writer and yet, standing there yesterday, I had pulled it off, and this made me feel good. He knew the significance of what I was saying. We had talked about life back in college and our aspirations and doubts. He was happy for me and I was happy his life has panned out nicely.

Ours is a genuine relationship for life and memories of good times at Wake Forest that were actually so great – especially the laughter – that it’s not really possible to fully explain it other than to say this guy lifted my spirits constantly with his positive view of how to live life with pure enjoyment and spontaneity.

Friendships like this, and moments like yesterday, give life richness and meaning, break through the bad, and remind us it’s a privilege to be living.

Griffis: Relationships and Memories Matter

I am thinking about all this emotion and life’s passage of time because this morning I listened to Mitch Griffis, the Wake Forest quarterback, talk after yesterday’s crushing Clemson loss.

Revealing candor and precocious wisdom, he talked about this thorny and thrilling thing called life. He shared how Wake’s team played well but not well enough and how that’s part of what we all experience no matter how many hours we prepare and strive to ensure we win, whatever that actually means.

“It’s hard,” he said during the post-game press conference. In preparations for Clemson, the Wake Forest players “worked their butts off, hours on end, stayed extra hours in the football facility exhausted themselves to the point where they just had to get out of the building, but then stayed another hour, driving themselves nuts. We were inches away from winning. But that’s life. Hard stuff happens. But we’ll be alright.”

Oh yes, they’re going to be fine. You watch.

He said the team will get back to work preparing for next weekend’s game at Virginia Tech. The great thing about football, he said, is even after a loss there’s a game the next weekend to prepare for and the team will be looking forward to that. “Relationships and moments are what make football great,” he said.

So true in football and in other aspects of life. Reinvigorating my relationship with Rumby and the other rugby players yesterday stands out as a moment I’ll treasure and always appreciate.

Likewise, my lasting image of yesterday’s game will be Griffis taking a bunch of hard hits at quarterback yesterday, three times struggling to get back on his feet, ribs no doubt bruised, then fighting until the end, driving his team for a late touchdown to almost “win.”

While not the most experienced Wake Forest quarterback and still struggling to excel, I love his moxie and character. This young man will battle and persevere the rest of the season and we should all respect and appreciate that.

Channeling that tone, Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson shared thoughts about his team’s performance yesterday that revealed his appreciation for his entire team’s performance in a hostile environment – some 80,000 screaming Clemson fans – and 21-point underdogs who only lost by five points.

“I am not happy or satisfied at all but feel better about our team after today’s game than after the three wins earlier this season,” he said. “Our kids played their butts off and I’m proud of them. It was a great effort by our football team.”

I’m proud of this team also. They fought. Let me write that one more time. They fought. That’s honorable. They did all they were physically capable of doing. They prepared well. They had a sound strategy, mainly to not beat themselves with turnovers, and that worked.

The Pain of Losing, the Need to Move on

Of course, they didn’t win and that hurts. I predicted they would. So I lost also, credibility perhaps, but it’s not the first time that’s happened and won’t be the last. I’ve been wrong so many times in life I’ve lost count. Being wrong is my default state.

But I, like the Wake Forest football team, and you, and everybody, have to keep striving. This is life’s command.

Yesterday is gone. Now what are we going to do today and at work this week, and how will Wake Forest respond next Saturday against Virginia Tech? How we will respond is always the question confronting us. Our answers determine who we are, what we contribute, the impact we have on others, and what they’ll say about us when we’re gone if they talk about us at all.

The answer, I believe, is to continue pursuing relationships with other people; creating moments of exhilaration, laughter, and joy with other people; and working to refine your craft so what you produce is of more value in fulfilling and energizing other people.

The answer is forgetting yourself, focusing on others, keep loving more people more often.

Yesterday I realized I’m in love with not only the friends I made while at Wake Forest, but the relationships with them now, and the campus itself, the actual place, the entire idea that is Wake Forest University.

And I fell in love yesterday with this year’s football team. All of them: Griffis, Clawson, Demond Clairborne, Tate Carney, Malik Mustapha, Dylan Hazen.

I love this football team. I love this football program. I love what it stands for. I love its ideals. I love the people who make it go. I love the way they competed against Clemson yesterday.

And I love everything that Wake Forest taught me, and gave me, and continues to, and will for many years to come.

I love Rumby. I love all my rugby friends. I love all my Wake Forest friends.

And I will love road tripping to Blacksburg for the Virginia Tech game. I will love seeking more meaningful and soul-enriching relationships, embracing more shared uplifting moments, and experiencing more victories however those will be defined.

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