In the solitude of Christmastime at BYU, a student discovers the joys of a crowded community.
Staying in Provo during Christmas break can be an enlightening experience. Sure, going home and visiting family during the holidays is greatnothing against Mom, Dad, and Uncle Joe here. But not everyone can go home. I, for one, have chosen to work off campus during my college career, specifically in the thrilling world of retail. Retail doesnt take a two-week break. In fact, getting a day off around Christmas is a feat akin to scrambling across a minefield blindfolded. And so, when my roommates and friends packed their suitcases and hurriedly made their way to the airport two weeks ago, I sat idly on the couch with two weeks of ESPN SportsCenter in store for me. Witnessing the area south of campus transform into a ghost town is fascinating; even more intriguing is what the contrast revealspart of what makes BYU such an exciting place to go to school.
Most days, the area around BYU is bustling with students. Two a.m.? Seven p.m.? Doesnt matter. Its nearly impossible to drive down 800 North without stopping at a crosswalk. Two days after the end of finals, however, everything changes. My apartment complexusually pulsating with the collective energy of hundreds of studentsis suddenly desolate, every window dark except my own. If only a long tumbleweed could somehow find its way onto 700 East, the image would be complete.
At first, the newfound serenity is refreshinga welcome change of pace from the frantic, anxiety-ridden urgency of finals week. However, the charm of empty streets and abandoned apartment complexes wears off fast, replaced by a feeling unusual at BYUloneliness.
During the semester, having a massive student population can seem like a nuisance. Waiting in line to pay tuition, waiting in line at the Testing Center, waiting in line to buy a chocolate bagel in the Twilight Zone between classesit sometimes seems like patience is the most-often-taught subject at BYU. Its easy to forget the advantages of attending a large school while sitting on the floor of the massive Joseph Smith Building (JSB) auditorium for an accounting class.
When the advantages disappear, however, their absence is immediately felt. Watching The Simpsons is always funnier when other people are there to laugh with you. Sometimes that impromptu Frisbee game is exactly what you need to break up the tedium of medieval prose. And inexpensive Mexican food at 2 in the morning just isnt as tasty without three friends to share it with.
There is always something to do at BYU. Thirty-thousand-plus students tend to have that effect. In my four nonconsecutive years at BYU, Ive played intramural basketball, hiked the Y, bowled in the Wilk, and made a statue dance the Crazy Chicken in front of the administration building. Whatever someone is looking to do at BYU, chances are there is a place to do it and other people excited to join in. So much so, in fact, that Ive often found myself irritated by the distraction. Socializing is fine and dandy, so long as it stays safely within its assigned sphere and doesnt leak out into my academic life. After all, Im here for an education, darn it!
Having other people around is something I tend to take for granted, that is, until those other people disappear for a couple of weeks. Abandoned by friends and left with ample free time to watch TV, go to the gym, and create accounts on LDSSingles.com, Im left to ponder college life in the absence of the college community.
BYU is huge. Theres no denying that. Part of what makes it great, however, is that enormous size. After a couple of weeks of solitaire, going elbow to elbow with 500 people jammed into one hall of the JSB doesnt seem quite as traumatic. In fact, it just reminds me how many potential friends there are in the BYU community.
As for me, winter break is almost finished. Some of the windows in my apartment complex are starting to light back up. Life is stirring once again south of campus. In fact, Dan from across the hall just banged on my door.
Hey, man, you want to go play basketball?
Im tempted to pass, to say that I need to finish an essay Im writing. But on second thought, a game of basketball sounds like a lot of fun right now.