The Endless Ballroom: A goodbye to UM-Dearborn

Photo//Jordan Wohl

When I was in high school, I had a recurring daydream that I haven’t forgotten about: 

I was upset and distracted about something when suddenly I faced a large open ballroom. The ballroom is dotted with massive chandeliers which hang from a ceiling which is clouded by stars and space, and the walls have intricate elegant patterns which extend for as far as I can see. 

About a football field’s length into the room is a few round tables, covered in bare white linens. Surrounding the table are almost a hundred men, some younger and some elderly; some who looked only a year or two years old. As I float (because it’s a dream, why would you walk when you can float) to the tables, I slowly realize that each of these people have something in common: they’re all me.

In complete awe of the moment, I approach the nearest table where I’m greeted by eight iterations of myself- four that are easily the four oldest men in the room, tending to four of the youngest. Before I have the opportunity to ask the elders how the rest of my life will pan out, they recognize me and usher me to another table where I’m paired with a kid who represents my elementary school years. He looks up to me and waits with bated breath, also desperate to know about what his future holds.

As I sit alone in quarantine, this recurring dream comes to the forefront of my thoughts; drowning under a pile of classwork to complete before the end of my final week as a UM-Dearborn student, I slowly swirl back into the daydream again. This time I’m alone in the ballroom with one other man: a version of myself from summer 2016- a kid who is just weeks away from moving to Michigan to start his freshman year of college. In the midst of the most uncertain juncture of his life at that point, he quietly waits for me to explain how the next four years of his life will unfold.

If I actually had the opportunity to share a moment in time with my 18-year-old self, I’d say this:

First and foremost, I want to take this opportunity to share two things which will happen in a few months which you will never believe: not only do the Cubs win the World Series, but Donald Trump becomes president… crazy, right??

But it’s true. And it gets crazier: you spend five weeks after your freshman year working for the Canadian Federal Government in Ottawa. You also are going to have the opportunity to be involved in a ton of organizations on campus, and you hold a ton of important jobs on campus, including being a manager at the Union, Orientation Leader, and Equipment Manager for two athletic teams (#rollnaners baby!!). Many students who come in during your junior and senior years will see you as a campus leader and someone they can trust. Student Leadership Awards also come in bunches in your time on campus.

You finish your courses in four years, but your last semester ends abruptly because of a worldwide virus outbreak which shuts down the entire global economy. And that’s all that I know. If I were you, I would find it hard to believe the future you hear- whether it’s the international pandemic or you being very popular that threw you off. But if you’re still listening, I want you to know this:

When the virus outbreak hit Michigan a month before graduation, I was forced to accept the reality that I was no longer a student leader at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. And when I was your age, I assumed that what would matter to me when I reflected on my undergraduate experience was the several awards and honors in my decorated campaign. But now that it’s over, the awards aren’t what I think about.

You meet your lifelong core friend group during your freshman year at a volleyball tournament- three weeks into your time at UM-Dearborn. You also become close friends with this guy who shares a name with a member of the Fab Five, and you give a TED talk with him during your senior year. Not to mention so many other amazing and beautiful friends and mentors: Ed, Mike, Shawn, Meg, Liv, Sarah, Matt Myers and everyone at the OSE, Orientation 2017, WOW 2017 and 2018, everyone at the Union office, everyone in the athletic department, Chris Holly, Harmony, Chanel, Dani, Sasha, Madz, Professor Edwards, Professor Stockton, the 2019 Model Arab League crew, Brendan Gallagher, Blake Bonkowski, the Melissa’s, Reetha, Greg and Glenna, Caitlin, Rand, Dean Finley, Mr. Lamoureux, Gabby, Steve and Cody, Srini, Rachelle, Josh, Neil, Sam, everyone at Hillel, the Behrendt brothers and Prestige Worldwide, Nick McCutcheon, Aidan, KLati, Louie, the Lacrosse team and Matt, Halts and the hockey team, Sweeney, MOM, GRANDMA AND DAD!! I could go on forever… 

The next four years of your life won’t change your life because you are given a Difference Maker fleece and a glass trophy saying you’re a Distinguished Student Leader. The next four years change your life because you’ll meet people who will be by your side for the rest of your life. So make every night in the UC last just a bit longer, stay at that hockey game for the third period even though they’re beating whoever by ten goals, and take the extra moment to answer that call from a freshman. Because you never know when you’ll be told that it’s all over.

With that, I would like to thank Kyla and the Michigan Journal for the opportunity to say goodbye to a campus community that I love so much. You have done so much to help me grow into the man I am now and I can’t wait to support you all from the sideline as an alumni when campus opens up again. Until then, stay safe. And forever: Go Blue.

– Jordan Wohl, ‘20