Seeing the Multitudes


My first full week of classes has finished. I survived, as indicated by the fact that I am writing this. But I did more than survive….I really had a brilliant week. Oh, it was hard, for sure, but I never really felt like I just couldn’t make it. My classes are easy, really. They require time and work certainly, but it’s not difficult material to understand.

Lots of things have changed for me here at college. It is a drastically different setting from home. From small stuff, like the 10-degree cooler temperatures, to big stuff like sharing a room with other girls, I am constantly having to adjust to something new. I love my roommates, but they are not the same as my little sister, who I adore, and I couldn’t even stand sharing a room with her.

One thing stands out the most to me here. People. The people here number in thousands. I see them one by one, passing in the hall of my dorm and en masse (I’m taking French, can you tell?), when we all gather for chapel. I am a people-watcher. I like to sit and observe them as they talk to their friends or walk between classes. I’m not the only who does this….occasionally we people-watchers watch each other and it is awkward in an Inception-y way.

My observations of people at college:

The other students in my classes are terrific to watch. They are all unique and I get to observe them on a regular basis. I especially like to see which people stick out in my head. For instance, there is a guy in my french class….the only reason I remember him is his laugh. He has this boisterous, contagious, truly one of a kind laugh. It makes everything funnier just hearing him laugh. Then there is my freshman seminar class….the primary fun with it is the cross-section of students. We each represent something and someplace different. In my history class, the student directly in front of my seat is a black guy…one of the only small classes of mine with any black students. My college does have them, they just aren’t in any of my classes. But this guy…he cracks me up. He has an attitude…not a bad one, just the “I’m here and I want people to see me” kind. I tend to answer the teacher’s questions quietly, honestly more to myself, so this guy in front of me has gotten in the habit of using my answer. He shouts it out much more loudly than my quiet speech.

Then there are the couples. I can almost always tell who they are. The way they walk together, their laughs, the standing until the last minute before they have to rush to separate classes. Sitting together in the dining common, often with no one else. Don’t get me wrong….I have nothing against couples. It’s just that I see them being so exclusive…the majority seem like they are so caught up in each other that they can’t take the time to get to know other people. And don’t get me started on the freshman couples! Seems like most of my class is obsessed with finding a significant other as soon as physically possible. Second week of school and already the drama is escalating. In their defense, I do have to say that there are times when I am sitting by myself, or walking back to the dorms alone, watching all these adorable couples and I am ever so slightly wistful. I am not dating any guys here yet, and I love my friends, who provide me the best company possible, but sometimes I think it would be nice to have someone always there for company and support.

Which leads me to my last point. This is nothing new, but it has been so obvious to me here that I have to say it. The primary thing I have seen in people is that even in a huge crowd, one can be very alone. I have experienced this myself and also recognized it in others. It is an odd feeling, watching hundreds and thousands of other people going along and feeling like you are completely by yourself. Sometimes it is because others don’t speak to or acknowledge you, just walk right on by. Sometimes they do speak and you’re just so caught up in your own pain that you can’t make the effort to reach out to them in return. Whatever the reasons, it is the saddest and most important point from my observations. I still struggle with it personally. I have learned a few coping strategies, but they aren’t always enough. More importantly, it has made me more aware. I watch the crowds for those who seem alone. Reaching out to them doesn’t always help, but at least I can try.

I will continue to watch people. It makes the tiny, boring moments all that much more interesting. If you don’t watch people, you should try it. Tell me what you see!