Six-hundred-fifty-five days ago, I arrived in Columbia after 13 hours of driving, grabbed a bowl of meatball macaroni and cheese from Noodles and Co. and collapsed onto my bed at the Ramada Inn at the intersection of I-70 and Highway 63. I’d never been to Columbia, Missouri, or the state of Missouri in general. The next morning, I searched for a lunch spot downtown and happened upon Booche’s, where I sat down, ate my food and rarely looked up from my phone before paying my bill in cash and walking out without noticing anything about the place.
During my first two weeks here, I relied on a GPS to get me to restaurants, the grocery store and even around MU’s campus. I passed by street signs and buildings and schools and landmarks with no concept of the history or importance of any of them. Each road was simply a means to an end — the most efficient route to my destination. Much the same way I originally viewed my time in Columbia.
I arrived here 21 months ago with one goal in mind: to leave, eventually. My two-year master’s program at the Missouri School of Journalism was my way to better connections, an internship, a job, a career. Columbia was a map dot on my way to something bigger and better. And unfortunately, I think that’s how many students view this place. Not as a permanent — or even temporary — home, but as a collection of places and people that move us along to our next chapter. We get so stuck in our own little bubbles that we forget this city existed long before we got here and will continue even longer after we leave.
In this month’s feature package, a team of Vox writers provides an exceptional history lesson on some of the most important — or in some cases, most infamous — members of our community and the landmarks that have taken their names over time. Each place connects us, and, ultimately, teaches us. They welcome us into this city we call home, whether we’re here for two years or 20.
As I leave Columbia for my next adventure, I’m already nostalgic for a place I never thought I’d miss. These places and the people who inhabit them have become part of the fabric of my life. I can only hope whether you’ve been here for a while or you’re just on your way through town, you’ll slow down to appreciate what this city is really all about. I wish I had just a little sooner.