GOZUN: New discoveries from from getting lost in Milwaukee

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gozun colorAbout a week ago I found myself at Miller Park alone and without a means to get home. The story behind how I exactly got there would probably take too much space in this column, but all you need to know is I had taken the bus there but lost my bus pass by the time I needed to get back to campus.

Now, I enjoy walking, whether it is on a mountain trail or through city streets, and with the good weather we’ve had recently, I thought I would turn a stroke of bad luck into a positive experience. Though I know I will hate myself when I eventually fork over $25 for a new bus pass, I will admit that at the time, walking through those city blocks was a positive experience in and of itself.

One of the things I realized during my walk is how the perception of distance can differ so much from reality. Miller Park is only about 3.5 miles away from campus, and yet I have always felt a car was necessary to get there. Even on a nice day, the thought of walking to that part of town never crossed my mind, even though, back home, I would regularly jog similar distances.

The route from Miller Park takes you through a part of the city where Marquette students normally do not venture. Head a few miles east of campus and there is a good chance that you will bump into a classmate taking a run to the lake or studying at a downtown coffee shop. Travel the same distance west, however, and you could swear Marquette is located in a completely different city. I judged my distance away from campus based on the number of gold sweatshirts and North Face-wearing pedestrians I encountered, a number that for the vast majority of my walk hovered at zero until around 22nd Street.

I came to Milwaukee for college to leave the roughly 30 by 20 mile island I’ve spent most of my life on and go somewhere I could travel without needing to go through airport security. Ironically, since college I have restricted about 90 percent of my waking moments to just Marquette’s campus, a statistic I have come to regret as a senior.

I learned quickly my freshman year to set up the boundaries as to where I should and should not go in Milwaukee; boundaries that essentially covered the city map with “Here be dragons” from north to south. The reasons why students do not venture too far from the safety of the LIMO routes are rational, albeit unfortunate in their application.

Of course 16th and National is dangerous at 3 a.m., just like anywhere else in the city at that time, but it is curious to see adult college students afraid to walk the same streets young Milwaukee children use to get to school.

This past weekend, during Hunger Clean-Up, I was once again reminded places and people exist outside of those I normally interact with. One of Hunger Clean-Up’s slogans is “We Are Marquette, We Are Milwaukee,” and yet, during my four years here, I have struggled to identify equally with both halves of that phrase.

Yes, Marquette is Milwaukee, but Milwaukee is also so much more than just Marquette. And this is something I wish I had realized much, much sooner. With the weather looking bad on only some days of the week, it might be time to get lost more often. After all, it’s not everyday that you can say you found something new in your backyard.

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