I’m not down on Chapel Hill. With me it’s a matter of finding out that I don’t have to live there in order to be up. I have not always felt this way. In fact, I had a bad case of what I call the Chapel Hill Syndrome.
What is the Chapel Hill Syndrome? It is taking five years to complete your undergraduate degree and having an older sister wonder if you are becoming a professional student. It is living in Chapel Hill and commuting to Raleigh to work. It is going back to Chapel Hill for a graduate degree and then commuting to Durham, Burlington, Hillsborough and Raleigh again to work. It is having your father say you’d be happy to sweep streets or collect garbage in order to live in Chapel Hill. It is believing that you probably would be willing to do that and feeling that you’d rather be a garbage man in Chapel Hill than the mayor or some other type of big shot in Durham or Raleigh. It is believing that the most significant culture and activity of a whole state — and even region — is limited to an area intersected by Franklin Street and Columbia Avenue.
The resolution of the Chapel Hill Syndrome comes when you have to leave and live elsewhere for several years. In time, you come to realize that all the fine things which you have projected onto the town of Chapel Hill and onto the campus that Thomas Wolfe used to roam do exist elsewhere. Finally, you become aware that the worthwhile and enduring qualities of Chapel Hill are of the spirit and live or die within you wherever you are and are not dependent on a particular place for their flourishing or withering.
With this awareness you find that you love Chapel Hill just as much — and in some ways more — away from it as you did when you lived there. Of course, it is good to visit The Hill and be acutely aware of the change which has taken place within you which enables you to love this community maturely rather than dependently.