Every so often, I amble up Prospect Street to the Divinity School. In the evenings, the tops of trees brush into a dark sky. Crickets and katydids whisper a language of their own. Once there, I find a bench and sit down. I breathe in and out, practicing a kind of meditation with open eyes. Sometimes I walk further, continuing on until I no longer recognize the rows of houses around me. Soon, I hope to find a proverbial New Haven temple to walk to on the weekends. There, I know I’ll find a sense of comfort in the movement of strangers.
My first year in college, I didn’t know that it was possible to take a walk. I knew that I could, in theory, take a walk, but I thought that it would be a waste of time, pulling me away from the friends and opportunities and life abuzz on central campus. But walking just 20 or 30 minutes away from campus, you begin to see that life is buzzing still. You begin to notice the freedom of being alone, awake to observation.
We are inundated with information and opportunities at every turn. It’s exciting. But overwhelming, too. I’ve already had conversations with first years and students in all grades about the difficulty of choosing what to do, academically or extracurricularly. Because we have so many equally amazing choices to pursue, we feel that each decision we make could potentially be catastrophically or positively life-changing. What a problem to have.
Walking away from campus — literally — offers not only pause in the day but also perspective, a way to process the quiet details of our own lives in the larger web of lives around us. Just two days ago, a person was shot on Ashmun Street, only a few streets past where most of us live. We receive such emails so often that it’s easy to become desensitized to them. Walking away is not an escape from the realities that exist around us; rather, it opens up a pocket of time to process those realities. And it opens up space for us to notice the lives of the people around us, to become a little less absorbed in our own.
Around us all the time, there are quieter realities happening: On the train, a woman is crying; just outside our window, maybe, two people are fighting on the street. It’s so easy to become caught up in the webs of our own thoughts, to think that all that matters is what’s on our agenda, our to-do lists, the looming questions of what we’re going to do and who we’re trying to become.
Being involved in campus can bring joy and friendships and so much good. My most vivid memories of Yale thus far have involved long dinners with friends in Morse or Davenport College, or nights rehearsing with my castmates or rewriting a piece with peer editors and friends. I’m glad to have been as involved in campus life as I have. But of course, there’s a price to incessant scheduling, to the feeling that we can’t stop doing things that will produce a tangible outcome.
Take some time to walk past Whitney Avenue, past Orange Street. Take the book you’ve been trying to read for a while but haven’t yet gotten to read with you. Maybe even settle in a quiet place and read about the world beyond the gates of Yale. Read about the Amazon rainforest and what’s happening there. Read the victim statement of Chanel Miller, who recently revealed her identity to the world. Read about a local artist in New Haven. Or, just walk. Revel in the silence — broken only by the crickets — around you. Finding outlets for your passions at Yale and being involved on campus is important. But it’s not important if it doesn’t truly enable you to be aware of the larger world beyond this one.
If tomorrow, you forget to go to a club meeting or schedule another coffee with someone that feels more like a chore than a source of pleasure, that’s okay. If instead, you take a walk, you won’t have wasted anything at all.
Meghana Mysore is a senior in Davenport College. Her column runs on alternate Fridays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .