I’m stretched out on a couch on the far end of the campus center, nestled next to the hearth. The scene before be is a daunting one for so early in the morning. About nine hundred high school students are everywhere – lined up the stairs for breakfast, sprawled across couches, chairs and floor, milling near their belongings and the doors. Youth leaders are bedraggled and slack-jawed and have stopped trying to keep their small flock of kids together. Over all, this is a chaotic mess. Still, somehow, it’s a sight that is both sad and refreshing.
Last night, Houghton campus was host to this hoard of high school students, ranging in ages and interests. Coming on buses from Ohio to Canada, the intention of their visit was to tour the campus and pull and all-night, fun filled, annual Spring Fling. While it was an all-night event, not all of them made it all night. Many broke from the passive nonchalant gaze of their caretakers and snuck up to the main lounge to try and steal a few minutes of sleep on open couches. Fluctuating in rumbling intervals throughout the night, students went in and out, up to the gym for games and back to the basement of the campus center for karaoke and snacks. The flow of traffic was sporadic and awkward, and just added to some of the terror instilled by the mass of people. Some students were enthusiastic about this venture, whooping and shouting and squeezing plush skunks that seemingly were handed out by ghosts. Others showed clear signs of disdain for the goings-on and gave off an animosity of children thrown onto a bus by their parents, not expecting to get any gratification from this experience.
I had been in the throng last year – not as a visitor, but as an unwitting freshman with a boyfriend, enjoying an evening relaxing with friends in the campus center. Then suddenly, there were teens. Lots of teens. Everywhere. Wanting to be anywhere but here. That experience, unrelated to the students visiting, was an awful memory for a few personal reasons. It wouldn’t have been memorable, say for the guests which made the events vivid in my mind. I could be frustrated at the bad recollections, but I cannot regret things which happened that night. I have learned and grown from them and have made a fresh start. Therefore, this year, I wanted to experience the thrill of being amidst these kids again. This time, I brought close friends, video games and a double shot of espresso. I won’t let the past haunt me.
Even now, I’m watching eager and exhausted kids run to a couch facing away from the main lounge, hoping it to be empty. It’s currently occupied by my friend Josh who has been comatose for about an hour. It baffles me because, in this huge group, they still believe there would be an open seat when people have resorted to scattering across the floor. Still, I can’t say I blame them for hoping. It’s been a long night. It keeps happening, and every time, it makes me smile a little bit. Each reaction is different – similar in tone, but very different in form.
Josh recently abandoned the couch, and like a carcass just past foul decay, it is swarmed by all angles by weakened forms. There was no pause from the occupation of one body to the three who came after.
For once, I don’t feel alienated even though I am squeezed in a tight corner surrounded by a throng of chattering and sleep-deprived teenagers. I don’t know. To an extent, I am defending my land, my couch and my belongings from the hoard of unknowns. But to another and more important extent, I’m an anonymous and overall ignored overseer of the proceedings before me. I have the perfect vantage point from my small bastion of couches and friends sleeping on their watches. There is no opportunity like this one.
I’ve seen the night slip past with a bitter post-thaw chill, and now the quickly rising traces of blues and emerald greens are highlighting the horizon. This is my absolute favorite place to be on campus when the sun rises. In the late spring, mainly during finals week, I will stay on this couch by the quad windows all night, sleeping for a few hours and then cracking open the window at the first signs of dawn. Cool, clean spring air filters in and cuts the staleness of night. I rise and then get back to work. These are the simple, raw joys of my life, and I love life for them.
I’m missing home a lot right now. It’s easy to drown out the chatter of kids when Ohio is on my mind. My heart literally aches for the blossoming of our apple trees, the lush and heavy blue that saturates the morning air in summer. I long for love, for my room and my own. I’m less than a week away from being there. I just need to put in the full effort that I’ve been lacking to pull it all together. I can achieve great things when I try. God will give me the strength to wrestle past these obstructions. Home is my reward.
Yellow, orange and purple sky… amazing how the colors can change so quickly in only a matter of minutes. It’s the process of morning. We don’t often think of it that was. We go by process so much in other areas of life, and days are divided similarly. Many people never experience the total flow of morning. I’ve seen them all. I’ve stayed awake to watch the ink of night dissolve into a rich azure which drapes over the entire world. Soon after, blue begins to lift as the sun comes to chase it away, leaving a trail of pale orange and streaking into pale cornflower. God is an artist and I have watched him play with his pallet morning after morning as I’ve stayed up far too long past when most people sleep. Sometimes, sleep is simply not an option. There is too much to be seen and thought so early in the morning (or so late). A writer’s life never ceases, especially not when poetic muse gets a spindly hold.
Josh has earned back his bed yet again. Abandoned by the squatters who had taken it, Josh stretched out again to get another few minutes of sleep. He is just as much a squatter as they are, but at least he attends the college. 😉
Backpacks, plastic grocery bags, sweatshirts and hats are all a part of the flow out the door. Just like they came in, screaming and stomping, they are slowly leaving. Cluster by cluster, the large group will diminish along with the incessant roar of noise. Maybe then I’ll get a few more minutes of sleep.
These are opportunities that these kids will lose the chance to experience once they get to where I am. Just as they sever from the group to sleep, they will sever from their peers and become sleepers, unconcerned about their surroundings. Unless you fight it, college has the potential to do that to you. But you must fight, tooth and nail, to stay awake and love all that you do. I only wish I could have told them all that.
I’ll return after a few more minutes of restless sleep.