Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

SENIOR COLUMN: Invest in Tuscaloosa’s culture


I’m unapologetically obsessed with every single track on Kacey Musgraves’ new album “Golden Hour,” but one song in particular is striking in a heavier way, both evoking and challenging my anxieties about graduation at once. “Slow Burn,” the record’s opening ballad, is a call to relish one’s time, which feels like an apt tribute given the swiftness with which these last four years have flown. “Golden Hour” was released March 30, approximately one month prior to the collective booting of me and friends from Tuscaloosa. 

“‘Cause I’m alright with a slow burn / Taking my time, let the world turn,” Musgraves sings. 

I wrestle with this metaphor, not only because my time at UA, albeit fruitful, has definitely not felt slow, but also because post-grad life is inherently about speeding up. It’s a race, one that involves packing up apartments, getting jobs and settling into newfound roles as workforce cogs. 

Instead of freaking out at this realization, I’m using “Slow Burn” as a way to frame that while life’s quickness is unavoidable, the meaningful usage of time is still possible, in college and beyond. To students with remaining time at Alabama, my plea is that you don’t miss out on Tuscaloosa’s quirk, that you take time to leave campus and invest (as well as indulge) in local oddities. 

You’ll find that Tuscaloosa is a hive for slow burns: places and spaces that call you to invest deeply in the community. However, the temptation to commit yourself to infinite campus activities is urgently pressing at UA, which is, to me, a somewhat unflattering aspect of our university’s culture. Students are encouraged to remain steadfastly devoted to an unhealthy number of organizations and then, simultaneously, expected to maintain excellent grades and a stellar social calendar. 

Invest in your campus niche and academics, but then find the recklessness to walk away from it all and just go see a show at Green Bar  – or grab a coffee at Monarch, or get lost on a walk with friends through Tuscaloosa’s Historic District, or have a beer at Egan’s while you scope the walls for old, framed articles about the Alabama Shakes before they were Grammy winners. Sometimes you can’t avoid inhabiting Gorgas for eight hours, but sometimes you just need to go to the River Market and try the Amish bread, play Pac-Man at Loosa or sit at your apartment and dissect the meaning of Kings of Leon’s entire discography. 

As is usually the case with music, Kacey Musgraves sings this philosophy better than I can write it: “You know the bar down the street don’t close for an hour / We should take a walk and look at all the flowers.”

Maybe I’m partial to Tuscaloosa culture because I’ve been reporting on it and writing about it for so long, but everyone should venture beyond the Strip and dig into the community. You’re the sole auteur of your own time. Cy Simonton of Tuscaloosa band CBDB articulates this sentiment well in lyrics from “My Time,” a song that’s been crucial in my grappling with the hecticness of my own college schedule: “It’s spreading like a white lie / They knew you couldn’t hold / Your free time / It’s worth its weight in gold.” 

Indeed, there’s room to craft meaning even in the seemingly mundane moments of college. In investing my time in the Tuscaloosa community – whether that be through seeing local bands, giving into my often expensive proclivity for Alabama craft beers, or fostering relationships with fellow proselytes of the Tuscaloosa scene – I’ve filled a piece of my heart that I didn’t even know was empty. I understand that statement is laced with platitude, but sometimes in writing personally, straightforwardness trumps singularity. 

Tuscaloosa culture matters. Just because you’re only here for four years doesn’t mean local businesses, art and community are of no importance. Make Tuscaloosa a part of your college experience, and you’ll leave here feeling more fulfilled than you even knew possible.

Ellen Johnson is a senior majoring in journalism. She is the culture editor of The Crimson White. 

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