Lacking a parking pass, I have to navigate my college town’s public transport system this year, unless I feel like walking for 20 minutes in the smoke. Interestingly, I’m finding that the bus is becoming the perfect metaphor for my experience of the first few days of school.
For one thing, the bus is packed. All the time. Being short, I get to either dangle from the overhead bars or lean awkwardly over another person to grab the upright handles (there’s pretty much never a seat). So my personal space shrinks to nothingness first thing every morning. The first week of school is also the most crowded. It’s when everyone shows up to class to find out if attendance is mandatory. It’s when it’s impossible to find a parking spot or a free mat at the gym because everyone is trying out the free classes and telling themselves that this semester they’ll work out every day. It’s when people who are pretty much never on campus for the rest of the year explore every nook and cranny of the buildings they never visit and steal the regular seats of students who actually hang out in on-campus coffee shops (I may be slightly bitter about this part).
My introverted side is having trouble adjusting to this. Unpredictable behavior from hundreds of other bodies milling around the same spaces as me is preventing me from slipping back into my School Routine as quickly and easily as I would like. Other people are variables; I like limiting the uncontrolled variables in my life, but for the first few days of school, I can’t do that. I can’t prevent others from invading my personal physical or mental space.
Then there’s the fact that the bus tends to be so packed that it cannot take on any more passengers, thereby precluding itself from serving its purpose… by serving its purpose. It’s a weird cycle. My schedule is starting to take on a similar tinge of cyclical futility. I’m only taking 12 credits (the minimum required to be considered a full-time student), and I’m only working 10 hours a week (so far), and I’m only working out about an hour in the evenings at the rec, and I’m only doing 2 part-time internships, and I’m only starting the research on my thesis (the real work comes next semester, I keep telling myself). But all those “onlys” add up to a lot of stuff going on in my life at once, all of it ostensibly necessary, most of it something I really do want to do. This leaves very little room for error; procrastinating on one assignment would be like putting another bus out of commission and increasing the demand on all the others.
All my work on self care in the past year has taught me that I am most likely to drop the things that are personal first. It’s much harder for me to bow out of obligations to others that I have agreed to fulfill than it is to tell myself that I don’t have time to work on my manuscript because I have so much homework. But the manuscript makes me happy. So, to drag this metaphor past the point of reason, like the bus systems, there are many demands on my time. Now I just need to figure out a screening process to decide which passengers to allow to get on.
Which would be a lot easier to do if there weren’t so many other people throwing elbows in line for coffee.