Courtesy of Opinion Staff/Headshot of Contributing Writer Anika Banerjee

I have been living at the Woodruff Residential Center for six months now. Yes, Woody’s. When I was a freshman, I was admittedly nervous about living there in the fall. Horror stories of roach-populated halls, oil from the cafe in the WReC wafting through the air, too many people for a community and, of course, the infamous walk to campus. “What about 8 a.m. classes?” people asked me, appalled and perhaps impressed with the devotion it takes to unwillingly trudge to Goodrich C. White Hall a whopping 10 minutes before everyone else.

While I ignored most of these hyperbolic grievances, I entered sophomore year thinking the walk would be my biggest foe. I prepared myself to loathe the walk, warned my friends about the myriad of complaints I would have and couldn’t even think about what the rain would be like. To have to haul items on and off campus like a nomad, braving Clifton Road while more fortunate Emory University students could sneak to their unmade bed between classes for a power nap. I was robbed.

And yet, it did not take long for the treacherous, isolating distance between Woody’s and the center of campus to be one of my biggest necessities. While the majority of my freshman year was all about settling into myself, my second year at Emory has been all about people. Friendships, connections, embracing the new and reinforcing the old. The role we play in each other’s lives is constantly molding — knowing a friend’s coffee order but not the name of their high school. 

Living and breathing among what feels like thousands of moving pieces, I have found that alone time does not come easy. Sure, there are fortuitous moments of serenity when you return to your dorm and your roommates are still scattered on campus. Or the elevator ride down from the Stacks Tower, your eyes, body, brain and everything else sore and stretched thinner than the day prior. But to me, these moments don’t quite count as being alone because you are not being. You are not thinking, just existing. Loading. Until the next day.

During the day, life moves head-spinningly fast. Each frame changes rapidly, and I cannot help but compare it to those cliche morning rush montages in Hallmark movies. Bright “How-are-you?”s, doors swinging open and five minutes to grab coffee before class, weaving through a mass of students while only comprehending one familiar face. It is an ecosystem undoubtedly similar to that of a beehive as clusters of students huddle together in animated buzz, planning the future endeavors the next weekend could hold. I truly love it. Seeing bodies swarm out of buildings, weaving along the brick road, all with the purpose of the next goal, the next destination, the next conversation. The liveliness is infectious, and I am easily filled with purpose to accomplish the steps of the day. 

I wonder what it is about slowing down that seems unappealing during transitional periods of our lives. We want to keep moving and growing and glowing. I suppose we are fearful that if we pause, our progress diminishes. No time to sit and journal — life is survival of the fittest! Yet the time devoted to solitude is the only way to consolidate what the hell even happened the day prior. We all need a break.

So I dedicate the walk to and from Woody’s to just that: a break. Consolidation and reflection somehow come naturally when supplemented by the ambient noises of Clifton Road, the wailing ambulance sirens and cars whizzing by me. I suppose the repetition of it all — cars turning left and right, pedestrians strolling — is so mundane that it serves as the perfect setting for solitude.

That 10-minute walk is where I discovered that the guitar solo from “Something” by The Beatles can replace caffeine. It is where I remembered to send my mom a photo of my latest packet of Juicy Fruit, her favorite gum.

I recall my past meals and question whether another Dobbs Common Table breakfast is in the cards. The sirens bring me back to my high school courtyard, which was snuggled between Boston’s esteemed hospitals. I grin at the 10-year-old on the scooter, thinking that my younger cousin Mishri surely had the same one.

I never guessed a simple main road would be conducive to such catharsis. The walk can be described as the introduction of a song, sure, serving as a weighted anticipation for the day. But I like to imagine it as the moments before you even decide to play music at all: a simple interlude before the volume gets turned up.

Existing in our surroundings and pausing our external selves for just 10 minutes is still progress. Or perhaps not progress, but necessary to whatever you might want to accomplish at minute 11. While my walk to and from Woody’s has proved to be the perfect time and distance for reflection, balance does not have to be restored just on Clifton Road. Sitting alone on an Adirondack chair for 10 minutes on the grass just to take in the chatter, extraneously weaving through campus to listen to an extra song, exploring a new building after a long day and telling your suitemates about it later: It is all part of being here at Emory. But most importantly, it is part of just being.

Anika Banerjee (26C) is from Wayland, Mass.

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