My dearest love,
Oh darling it’s been too long. And yet walking your streets today made all that time fade away, and those three years feel like the blink of an eye, the whisper of a dream.
Memory after memory came flooding back as I walked the grounds of Lady Margaret Hall. I passed the picnic benches where Yaël hopped on the tables and monologued as Puck. I heard the squelch of the muddy river bank where we sat and read Hamlet and the ducks waddled amongst us. I felt the crunch of the gravel through my wellies as I walked along the paths that weave through the English gardens, taking me past the river and the boat house and the places where I spent summer afternoons taking portraits of my friends. I breathed in deeply only to smell raw fish in the covered market and cigarette smoke in the streets. I held my arms out to bask in the rays of the sun.
The thing I love most about you, dear Oxford, is your steady constancy. Nothing changed in the almost three years since I left. The streets are the same. The people are the same. The landscape is the same. So much of who I am is because of what I did at Oxford. It was my first time away from home. It was my first time I remembered being in England. It was my first time studying photography. I learned how to use my camera and sit in class for three hours discussing literature. I learned how to navigate a foreign city and count my pence to pay for my milkshake. I learned how to be alone- the only Mormon, the only college-bound high school graduate, the only one I knew- and how to take a stand for what I knew to be true. I took a leap, I pretended to be brave, and I came to Oxford, completely unsure of what was going to happen. But I prayed, and I hoped, and I worked to make Oxford the experience I needed it to be.
And then I went off to college and I forgot some of those things. I lost myself a little bit. But again, I prayed, and I hoped, and I worked, and now college has turned into the experience I needed it to be.
And then I came back to England. And I came back to my Oxford. And it hadn’t changed. And as I walked the same cobblestone streets and took the same pictures and ate the same foods, I realized that the heart of me, the core that I discovered in Oxford, was the same. It hadn’t changed either. I’m still photographing. I’m still reading Shakespeare. I’m still praying and hoping and working.
And while sometimes, realizing things haven’t changed is frustrating,this was good. This was a relief, a release, a reminder. My Oxford didn’t change. And who I am, even though it got lost for a little bit, didn’t change. And as long as my Oxford doesn’t change, I can hold fast to my roots here and keep praying and hoping and working. Oxford is my constant. I truly feel it as a part of me, at the core of the person I’ve become.
So Oxford, my love, thank you. Thank you for remaining steadfast and constant. Thank you for taking me and molding me and waiting for me. I love you with all of my heart.