Frankly, I’m running on little sleep and dragging a teasing cold wherever I go so I hope this entry will make sense. As the tradition follows, within the fourth week of college I made one wrong turn and smashed my face on a wall. Meaning simply that work piled up. It is the worst when you try your best to catch up, but then you attend another hour of class and then you leave with another task to tackle. We kids call it “the struggle bus”… no way to tell when the next bus stop is coming up so that you can hop off.
I know I’m not alone, because sighing over school seems to be habit around here. Ironic that we pay so much money for this sophisticated boot camp. Yesterday a friend of mine posted on Facebook, “Nothing like being awake until 3:00 in the morning to study for exam week…..oh wait it is only week four of classes and I am only doing homework.”
For those who have never been in Mount Pleasant, there is a train track that runs straight through the west side of campus. A train passes through several times a week, perhaps more, and whenever it does, it blows its horn with such vigor that it interrupts conversations. When I lived in the towers freshmen year, I used to hear it almost every day and for some reason, I found some comfort in that sound. Now that I live in a dorm further away, I don’t hear the train when it passes. Except for today during creative writing class.
We were in the middle of discussing someone’s short story when the horn cut through the air and reached my eardrums. It served as a reminder to me about my romanticized ideas about traveling. Ever seen movies or TV shows on BBC, any of those British shows where the picture on the screen looks softer and almost hazed? Trains symbolize the exotic unknown. (They do that in old westerns, too.) In James Joyce’s story “An Encounter,” the narrator says, “… real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.” Whenever I see a train or even a truck on the highway, I can’t help but wonder where they are going, what’s the goal of their journey, or what is that person driving thinking. Doesn’t matter to me if the train going through Mount Pleasant is transporting bio-fuel, it’s the movement itself that draws my attention.
Perhaps it’s because I take my English professor too literally when he talks about Joyce and tells us the importance of slowing down the moment… observe and feel your surroundings… slow down to understand the circumstances. When you read the Dubliners for instance, it’s important to take it easy and carefully look at the language Joyce uses. Nothing is tossed in there for show; the point of view of the narrator changes constantly. Same goes for everyday life, especially in a place like the United States where every single one has an agenda, everybody is busy, tired, stressed, pressured to accomplish something. Even five-year-olds have a schedule: kindergarten, homework, play dates, Little League, Girl Scouts, whatever activity their parents drop them into.
Whenever I do manage to slow down, I can appreciate the energy on this campus. People-watching with a hot cup of joe wrapped between my hands, puzzling sentences in my head, picking up little things about people like I’m Sherlock Holmes, it is a treasured moment.
Speaking of moments, I had an epiphany during class. I have another novel in mind. I have the main characters, two great conflicts, a love story, the social tensions. Somehow all those elements came to together, gathered like clouds and hot air and cold air, and exploded thunderbolts in my mind while my peers where having a discussion. It was insane.
Being on campus helps my writing. Stretching my limits as I try to balance school and work, watching the news and seeing politics unfold, hearing other people’s joys and troubles, listening to music… all these events give me so much to work with. I cannot stress it enough. I’m energized and exhausted all at the same time. I’ve never understood how writers and poets produce anything good being in solitude. I need to slump right down into the action. Staying grounded might sound boring and I do long to jump on that train at times. However, if you ever came to visit in Mount Pleasant and took the time to walk around, you might understand where I’m coming from.