The personal ad would have read something like this:
18-year-old male looking for serious relationship with older woman. Tall, (really) skinny, serious and dedicated, fun-loving and goofy. Ideal woman will offer leadership/professional opportunities, throw rockin' parties, and introduce him to some of the best friends of his life.
I would have called The DePauw — 159 years old and gray but revitalized every semester — back for a first date.
Turns out we were a phenomenal match. Around her, I felt this crazy combination of reward, frustration, inadequacy and giddy joy. I kept coming back for more.
Three and a half years later, I still love The DePauw. She's shared so much with me — best friends, deep professional satisfaction, influence on campus, gas money, Papa John's pizza.
But last week our relationship changed. The old gray lady saw my shenanigans and said, "No. Freakin'. Way." And it took me a week to realize what I have to do to keep her happy.
See, last Monday night I closed down The Duck. The weather gods were serving up iced hell and cackling with glee at the slippery chaos. I was celebrating with DePauw's over-21 crowd like we'd just won the Bell.
Who could resist? By 11 p.m. my to-do list just couldn't compete with $4 pitchers of Bud Light and bonding over a classes-canceled vacation night.
I talked. I yelled. I laughed. I played sink the Biz. By roughly 3:15 a.m. there were only four or five of us surrounded by upturned chairs, and we were politely moved along.
I was in bed by 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. By 9 a.m. my phone buzzed with texts from The DePauw's friends. Things like, "Just curious what you and your team are planning for storm coverage, this is big." "Curious why no one's in the newsroom."
Open one eye. Let brain go blank. Sleep more.
Finally I woke up around 11:30 a.m. and processed the texts. These were for real. Most were from R.B. Brenner, one of TDP's new best friends, from Stanford and a Pulitzer-winning team at The Washington Post. A few were from Bob Steele, a nationally-known journalism scholar, DePauw professor and a friend of TDP since his days as a student here.
Sure, our news editors were out at 9 a.m. interviewing and writing. But TDP demanded more. She's almost always right.
By 1 p.m. Tuesday I was in the newsroom. And an incredible team spent almost 50 hours over the next three days and nights working for The DePauw. Reporting. Updating her web site. Asking our mutual friends to help.
I think we pulled together the best coverage possible on one of the largest-scale stories I've covered at DePauw.
But damn it was hard. I slunk out of bed with 4 to 5 hours of sleep. I told my friends that no, I couldn't come over for dinner or play snow day games, and I felt a deep, sad ache in my stomach.
There were certain moments — calling people to the newsroom against the recommendations of emergency officials — I wanted to slam a door as hard as I could and leave The DePauw to herself.
I couldn't. I wouldn't.
That's the thing about loving The DePauw. It's rare for something to so consistently exemplify the old adage — the more you give, the more you'll get.
I'll devote more hours to her this semester than ever. Real girlfriend? Not likely. More weeknight toss outs from The Duck? Perhaps.
But I'm thrilled to grow ever closer to her and her newest group of friends. Thrilled to suffer a little. Thrilled to feel that helpless, fist-pumping joy.
I'll work as hard as I can so that, when I struggle through my inevitable breakup with The DePauw in May, I'll pass my love along. I'll leave some of the most devoted people I know to carry on one of the most profoundly important relationships of my life.