When I first arrived in White River, back in February of oh-nine, just to look at it... I fell in love. Sure it was a small town, hard to get to, lots of snow, but I could feel something about here that was pulling hard at my heart strings. The school completely blew me away... everyone was so nice, working hard and producing some of the most amazing work I had ever seen. I knew I wanted that. I wanted to be these people... I wanted them to accept me as their own. Shortly after my review with Robyn Chapman and a brief glimpse at one of my best friends now (Jon Chad), I got a phone call from the one and only Michelle Ollie... the President of CCS. She gave me the great news that it was indeed true, I was a wizard and would be attending Hogwarts in the fall of oh-nine.
After that everything at SAIC was a blur, school ended, things were sad but I knew I'd be back to those people. I knew it wasn't goodbye forever. I even found out I was getting the scholarship, which made me feel so incredible and humbled and honored. Pretty soon it was time to say goodbye to my mom and things that were familiar and move the farthest away than I had ever been. Starting over. Making new friends. Paying bills. Renting an apartment... these were all terrifying. And when my dad left me in that apartment, without my bed yet, without friends yet, with nothing but a fan, an air mattress and a ton of boxes, I can't even tell you how hard I cried. How awful I felt, how alone and scared and not ready for any of this.
(second family, the class of 2011 first day of school)
And then I made a friend... and another... and another... I started going to events, I started my job, I started feeling better and calling home less... and before I knew it I had 24 of the best friends I could ever ask for. Soon I was sharing comics, stories, laughs, tears, sandwiches, and my life with these amazing people. And we worked hard and partied harder. I got drunk for the first time, and produced the best work I had ever made. When the summer came it was so hard to say goodbye even for a few months.
Before we knew it, we were starting our second year here. In this town that seemed like the same old, same old but was actually one of the best places ever. I got a new job that was amazing and I loved, and we all had a shared studio space... one that really reflected our class as the united family that we were. All of us working ourselves to the bone on projects we believed in, keeping each others spirits up when it got rough, and playing SO MUCH PINBALL all the time.
We defeated the odds and were triumphant in so many ways. I feel so so so so so proud that I was a part of it.
(Class of 2011, graduation day)
And then something completely out of the blue happened. I had settled in here, ready to be a part of the proud CCS alumni tradition of sticking around the area for another year, I had a great job, great friends, and comfortable routine and living. But Mr. Opportunity knocked on my door and I jumped. Now here I am, sitting in my room, with my bags packed, about to head up to the Red House for one more White River blow out. And don't get me wrong, dear reader, Chicago has been in my heart and my head for so long and I'm SO excited and thrilled to have a great chance and job. But I never thought I'd fall in love with such a strange little town full of strange people. And that it would be so hard to say goodbye. Most of my class has already left for their various corners of the world and now it's my turn. But I just don't want to. How can I possibly express my love for everyone here? How can I explain how important every interaction has been? How can there be enough time left to say what I hear in my head? Thank You. I love you. I'll miss you. Please write me. Don't forget me. I'm sorry.
You changed my life, Center for Cartoon Studies. You, your people, your opportunities, your knowledge, your love and caring, I can never EVER thank you enough for what you've given me. Just remember, there is no goodbye, Chunky Rice.