The Daily Tar Heel
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The Daily Tar Heel

Sequined jackets. Floor-length sailor dresses. Neon sweaters embroidered with panthers.

The questions fall thick and fast among the morass of hangers at my favorite thrift store — who would wear a velvet jumpsuit? Is this scrap of material even intended for the human body?

I will confess: I bought the shirt not because I desired specifically plaid flannel.

I paid my full $2 for it because I wanted the idea of who I would be in this shirt. Sun-bleached and worn at the elbows, the fabric recalled the scent of pine needles, the softness of winter light. Plaid flannel owners chopped their own wood or brewed their own beer or rode their spindly bikes off to pick up a carton of local squash.

It is my shirt now. Or at least it will be for a time. I have spilled coffee on its cuff, the stain blossoming into a small beanstalk up the sleeve.

As I wear it — sprawled at my table in the Pit and continuing with the same rituals of living that I have adopted for the past three years — I think of the shirt’s previous owner.

It is truly a mystical thing to wear someone else’s clothing. How many lives has this shirt enveloped before mine? How many dreams and fears and unheralded afternoons of pickup football has it stood in witness to?

The weave. The plastic buttons. The seams. The nearly invisible stitches along the collar. All obscure exactly how the shirt traveled from mere squares of fabric to the rack of my shoulders.

And yet, this flannel has weight to it. It has offered itself to those who came before and now to me.

Last fall, I took myself away from school for several months and ventured into the adult world of bosses and timesheets and stale cups of office coffee.

The workload and the routine did not surprise me. What I stumbled over instead was the anonymity — in this city, I was yet another wool coat stepping out of a subway car.

All spaces are not places. Many do not want to be identified with or owned.

In Washington, D.C., the only corner that I truly could recognize myself in was the private refuge of my apartment.

Even the coffee shops, while welcoming, did not ask you to become a part of them, to allow your life to unfold on their mismatched chairs.

But UNC is not like that. It is a place that envelops, that reaches out a hand. It is a place that bears our inscriptions and the passage of our days, that — slowly, subtly, without us truly being aware of it — imprints itself into who we are.

We are of a place here. This University stands as a marker of all those who came and learned and lived and passed on again. It is a well-worn and creased flannel shirt.

And so, in a time where the winds of economy will blow us every which way, from job market to job market, I encourage you to make UNC your territory. Saturate yourself with this place.

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