With finals finishing up for the weekend, Monday marked the beginning of a new quarter. Falling back into the regular-schedule groove feels almost like coming back from a vacation. Not because finals week was a vacation, heavens no, but because we were out of the ordinary for over a week, and perhaps because the misery of testing seemed drawn out, making exam week seem longer than it actually was.
The days leading up to the exams were a funny thing. The constant studying isolated me from the outside world even more than usual as I tucked myself away in my favorite study spot, burrowing through my notes. On the rare occasions that I would emerge, strange behaviors would take place; I would count my footsteps, or reread the details on a wedding invitation on my refrigerator door over and over and over again. One time, I looked through an open front door to see my roommate standing outside staring at something. Naturally, I joined him. Before any words were said, we both stood there for several moments, staring at the top of a neighbor’s tree simply for the enjoyment of looking at something far away– something farther away from our eyes than notes on the desk as we studied them.
I realized how isolated and detached I had become when I drove to Redlands. I made it through all the traffic just fine, but was suddenly aware of a world I had not been in for several days when I had to brake for a jaywalker. I don’t know why such an ordinary event triggered the awareness I realized then, but it was a peculiar epiphany. This world seemed surreal. There were actually other people in it!
Now that the new quarter has begun, I see my classmates every day and am back in my regular routine. My seat has welcomed the accustomed feeling of the cushion on the chair at my usual spot in the lecture hall. Nearly everyone has “a spot” in the lecture hall. Maybe it’s a conditioned behavior, not selected against since we were first assigned seats in grade school, but we all like to sit in “our spots.” Even if you wanted to move, it’d be difficult. It would take a brave person to venture out from their familiar seat to the unknown territory of another student’s. But bravery wouldn’t even be enough; one would have to be resolute to hold their ground through the piercing glare of the defeated victim. I am not so bold, so for better or worse, I am stuck where I am until next year.