by Lisa Sisley on August 20, 2014

I have an embarrassing secret.

I love it when the K-State students come back to town. I really, really do.

This just isn’t a sentiment we long-time Manhattanites ever ’fess up to having. It just isn’t done. Instead, we loudly complain about the hellhole that is Walmart from the end of July through Labor Day. We whine about the traffic and the drivers who don’t understand our weird street system. We glower at the rapidly escalating gas-price marquees at the convenience stores (“Price fixing? What price fixing?”).

I do those things, too. So my hypocrisy compounds my shame. Because underneath, I AM SO HAPPY.

I love those license plates from all over. I love to see those shiny new students wander around gawking at things. I love the stressed-out parents who are trying to keep it together so they don’t freak out the kid. But those parents know that a piece of who they’ve been is dying a little bit today. Today, everything changes.

I love the idea that for 150 years, parents and students and little brothers and sisters have been moving their new K-Staters into the dorms and into adulthood. Those students are about to open a whole new toy-box of excitements and fears, failures and triumphs. They’ll fall in and out love, probably with the same person. They’ll swerve from certainty to mental paralysis back to certainty. They’ll find their path. They’ll lose it. Most of them will find it again.

This is the start of fall, the start of football season, the start of new adventures. I think that only in a college town do you really get hit with the possibilities of life in quite the same way. And in a small college town like Manhattan, the influx of all this energy, this puppy-like elation, this gut-wrenching anxiety is almost palpable.

Here’s to you, college kids! Welcome to Manhappiness. We will help you, we will cheer you on, and we will remember when that was us motoring into our futures with Mom and Dad and a new comforter and an old teddy bear. Maybe you’ll join the estimated (actually totally made-up, not-even-close) 93% of Manhattan’s population who graduated from K-State but never left. You’re going to be fine.

And you’re going to figure out our weird streets. I promise.