Last weekend, my best friend Lauren and I traveled down to our alma mater for a book signing. Needless to say, I was stoked about going back to our old stomping grounds and overjoyed that the University Store director had happily agreed to host me (during one of the busiest weekends of the semester, no less). A few weeks prior to the event, I had sent the university marketing director a flyer for the book signing I assumed would be printed on regular ol' paper and taped to some windows. So when I walked into the bookstore on Saturday morning, and saw this instead:
Well, it's pretty clear that I was happy about it.
The book signing itself went incredibly well, and certainly better than any other event I've had since The Best Kept Secret was released. The University Store ordered 50 copies of my book and they all sold out! I met quite a few students and parents, and Lauren was the perfect wingman. She wore her The Best Kept Secret t-shirt and kept me occupied when I would have otherwise just been sitting at the (lovely) table waiting for readers to say hello. A few students stopped by with their younger sisters and asked us about our time at Southern. Lauren and I were a kind of live PSA for the beneifts of attending GSU. We shared how we'd met there and how I was about to be in Lauren's wedding, but mostly we talked about how incredible our experiences had been as students.
A big thanks to Karley for saying hello and buying a book! And thank you to everyone who came out and decided The Best Kept Secret was worth the purchase. Carlita, Brooke, Holly, and all the university staff who were involved: I appreciate your willingness to support an alum and I'm sending you a big virtual hug for all that you did to make my event a success. I felt like I was being welcomed back home, and it means more than I can express here.
For the rest of the day, I floated around campus on cloud nine and reminisced - as is customary - with Lauren about being back in college. As I wrote on Instagram, Georgia Southern is a deeply special place for me. Every beautiful moment in my life since 2007 - getting engaged, getting married, having Lucy, being published - all came as a result of my four years at GSU. It was the foundation for the life I have now and, in many ways, I feel like life didn't really begin until I got to Southern. For a number of years, and even early into my college career, I acted like faith was little more than a set of rules. Sure, those rules kept me from making irresponsible decisions, but in the process I failed to offer grace to those I loved...and to myself. It wasn't until I experienced real love for the first time, and the heartbreak that followed, that I learned I would never have joy if I didn't have a relationship with God, one that placed rules far behind giving Him my whole heart. That lesson was crucial for me. It was the most valuable education I received (although my degree is certainly nothing to scoff at). And without it, I sincerely doubt I would have authored a book, become Pierce's wife, or be Lucy's mother.
I'll repeat here what I've already written because it will always remain true: there are some things that cannot be described in words, even by a writer. They have to be felt. My time at Georgia Southern is one of those things. And I when I visit, I am filled with a deep sense of longing and sadness. I know I can never return or relive the four years I spent there, and I miss them with an ache that presses against me as soon I exit I-16. When I walk that campus, I see myself at 18, 19, 20, and 21 and I remember a thousand little moments. That tree on Sweetheart Circle where I received a terrible first kiss... and then a very different one to make up for it. That bench where I sat with friends and talked about all the things I didn't understand. That building where I discovered storytelling. That room we filled with laughter. No matter how much the campus changes, it will forever remain in my mind exactly as it was then: home.