During my three years at Providence College the campus has become busier and busier. My first year was during heavy COVID-19 restrictions and there weren’t many people out and about. As the masks came off and events took place, Slavin lawn was busy and certain areas bustled with students.
Over the past three years, the student body has grown as well. Now, a walk to a 1:30 p.m. class is to be part of a sea of backpacks and heads bobbing like waves. Those parts of campus, like outside of Ryan, or heaven forbid Ray at lunchtime, are packed. That’s great—the more Friars the better, in my opinion. I am honestly thrilled to see so many young men and women heading to classes, clubs, and meetings. But after a long day, when I am walking back home across campus, I realize how quiet it is. That same spot that was just hours ago filled with people is now empty. This isn’t a very deep thought, but it is one that I have quite often. I enjoy the busyness, but I relish the quiet moment and the opportunity to reflect on how different a space can feel because of the presence of people.
When masses of people are walking with you (and sometimes directly at you) it can be tricky. Your mind is on the class you were just in and the discussion points you brought up. Maybe you have a presentation that day and your heart is beating a little faster than normal. Then boom—you see someone you sort of know and are not exactly sure what kind of ‘hello’ to give them. But then, before you know it, you’re sitting in class getting your notebook out. Walking with and seeing so many people seems like an eternity but it is over in an instant.
Our brains seem to operate in a similar way. At some points, it feels as if there are hundreds of thoughts, important and unimportant trampling through our heads. This feeling can last for days at a time. Obligations to clubs, sports teams, friends, and professors are racing to and from our minds. Like the waves of students leaving their Civ lecture, the stream of thoughts and ideas seems to be never-ending. It feels like thoughts are swimming—and you are drowning in them.
But then, most of the time without us even noticing, our brains empty out. The footsteps are quiet. There are two or three people walking past. Hopefully, they are people you like to see. It is quiet and you can hear the hum of the crickets, maybe an AirPod in and it’s just one foot in front of the other. You can focus on the little tasks of the day. This ebb and flow is one of the hallmarks of college life—and, let’s face it, life in general. So don’t be discouraged that there is too much to think about with too little time and don’t feel lost when there is not much going on. You’re alive. You’re doing it. Soak it all in.