I love old things. Old friends. Old memories. Old buildings. Old stories. I’ve even called myself a nostalgia addict in the past. So, as you might suspect, when someone or something messes with the “old” things that I treasure, I get a little sad, antsy and confused.
One thing that has been bothering me lately is the “makeover” that both my university and high school have been undergoing. The very definition of “renovation” is contradictory in that it includes the actions of both modernizing and restoring. So, which is it? Can it really be both?
In this case, there’s something special, cherished and even romantic about these older educational buildings. Maybe it’s because I expect school buildings to look a certain way … or maybe I just want them to look the way they did when I walked their halls on a daily basis. But when they made over the University Center at University of Tennessee, I think they lost a lot of the beauty and grandeur. It’s a pretty building now, don’t get me wrong, but it looks like that building, and that building and that building. All of the regal brickwork has been replaced with sleek glass. All of the old walls and doors that, if they could talk, could describe decades of intellectual conversation, have been replaced with the same cheap drywall as you find in any new office building. It’s like they ripped the stories and tradition right out of the University Center and pumped it full of Botox.
The same thing is happening at my high school, Bartlett High School. The pictures people are posting of the renovation make me so sad. They are even in the process of removing (or relocating, I hope) the sign that my class dedicated to the school. My gut reaction is, “What? It’s like we never existed!” I know the school needs to be updated, but it just breaks my heart that all these artifacts of my youth are being destroyed. Where is the window in the main building that we used to sneak out of during Algebra II? Where is the “C” building where I sat in Geography class and crushed hard on a certain upperclassman (who shall remain unnamed)? Where are the hallways I walked through collecting attendance slips and sneaking “hellos” to all of my friends? It just makes me sad.
I can hear what you’re all saying. Progress is necessary. I completely agree. And these bits of nostalgia will live forever in my heart and my mind. I just hope that these continued renovations don’t completely lose all semblance of what these institutions once were.
I guess I would beg that of any organization, company or institution. Yes, growth and advancement are vital; but don’t forget to balance it with hints of where you came from. Don’t lose great traditions or erase foundational stories as you move into the next era. It’s important to your culture and to the people who love your institution.
Moving forward is great. New stuff is cool. But you didn’t get to the present without the past. Remember that.
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