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Where the sidewalk ends

| Friday, October 26, 2018

When I was a little kid, I desperately wanted to be a high schooler. I dreamt of climbing The Rope in PE, standing atop cheerleading pyramids and spending every night with my gang of best friends in the town diner, because, according to the movies, high schoolers do just about everything except actually go to class. Needless to say, there’s a lot the movies got wrong. People on sports teams didn’t carry basketballs with them in case a pickup game struck at any moment. As far as I know, there were no undercover journalists, police or pop superstars roaming the halls. And much to my disappointment, I never took part in any spontaneously organized musical numbers with extensive choreography in the quad.

College, it seems so far, has also been the subject of some serious false advertising. When I imagined going off to a university, I visualized perfectly decorated dorm rooms and so much free time I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. In actuality, I can’t sit up in my bed without my head hitting the ceiling and I haven’t had a chance to become involved in many clubs, yet I still feel like there’s not enough time in the day. Most shocking of all, though, is the lie about “The Grass.”

When I pictured college life, it was always centered around “The Grass,” around a big lawn full of bustle, of people laying on blankets, of music and laughter and life. I envisioned myself laying on the grass, halfheartedly doing calculus as I laughed with my best friend/roommate (because obviously they’re one in the same) and brightly colored Frisbees sailed over my head. I imagined returning from an especially hard chemistry class, dropping my backpack on the ground and collapsing onto my back to look at clouds and stuff my face with grapes.

Thus, you can imagine my chagrin when I realized no one goes on the grass at Notre Dame. No one strays from the sidewalk. No one sets up blankets. No one picnics.

It’s not something you notice immediately, like the suspicious lack of fruit in the dining halls or the overwhelming amount of Sperrys walking around campus. It sneaks up on you. You first notice when you’re walking from O’Shag to Jenkins-Nanovic, and it’d be faster to cut across the lawn, but no one else is, so you stay on the sidewalk. You realize again when you want to study on North Quad, but feel self-conscious because you’ll be the only one out there on a Tuesday afternoon.

At first, I genuinely thought people stayed off the grass because it was against University policy. Then, I speculated that perhaps the boundaries between quads were hazy and students wanted to avoid all grass for fear of accidentally traversing God Quad. I wondered if it was a result of the long winters, of being used to staying on the shoveled paths and forgetting that lounging on the lawn is an option in the warm months. Or maybe the grass here is different from the terrain I’m used to in California. I was wrong.

I realized no one goes on the grass, everyone’s always rushing. No one takes the time to just be.

We spend our weeks wishing Monday was Friday, our February wishing it was Spring Break, our Spring Break wishing it was summer. We do our homework as quickly as we can. Our weekends are spent either studying or partying. We’re either working or going out. There is no in between. There is no time to simply exist. There is no time for “The Grass.”

For taking risks. For cutting across a lawn, where your toes might get squishy or your shoes might get dirty.

For relaxing. For writing an essay while your best friend plays the “Phineas and Ferb” soundtrack, knowing it’ll take twice as long with distractions, but not caring because it’ll be twice as fun.

Everything is about efficiency. About memorizing the answers for the test rather than knowledge for the sake of learning. About focusing on the results, at the sacrifice of the journey. About hurrying to and from without ever stopping to rest on the grass.

We still have a month left of Grass weather (or so I hope. Like I said, I’m from California). I urge you to spread your blanket. To lay on your back and appreciate the changing leaves before they fall. To walk across the grass before it becomes covered with snow and you’re relegated to shuffle down an uninviting cement walkway. To invite your hall-mates to throw a Frisbee or kick a ball. To listen to music. To sit and stop and enjoy. To cross the grass and take the long way to class. Or the short way. Or whichever way lets you experience the world. To find out if the grass really is greener away from the side(walk).  

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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