The dark night is sparsely revealed with carnival lights and headlights. The air is hot and heavy, but not enough to bother anyone in the crowd. The crowd, including myself, is filled with anticipation and joy. Amidst a group of people, my friends and I lie down on the sidewalk, a normally taboo thing to do. But it does not matter, for everybody is doing it. Anticipation grows and the air is pleasant.
Moments later, sounds of explosion, bright lights and children’s awe fill the air. Constant flashed of light and noise. Everybody stares at it and watches in silence. Some people are busily capturing this moment on their phones, maybe to share, to boast, or to keep. The lights are beautiful, something that we rarely see, so many people just on the ground, looking up, and there seems to be not a single worry or stress in the air. Infatuation with the fabulous lights continue, often expressed by an involuntary gasp or wow.
I remember coming into this university, all excited and worried, full of anticipation, imbibing every little detail of this campus with the greatest joy. I also remember meeting new people, everybody had a unique joy that they brought, and I lived every day excited to meet new people and build relationships.
Fireworks still painting the sky, I notice some bugs on my arm. I swing my arm to get rid of them, a bit annoyed. Then I notice how humid it is, as well as the stickiness of my skin from a bit of sweat. The ground suddenly becomes a bit too hard for me to sit in. It becomes uncomfortable. Then I look up, the fireworks are not as fascinating as before. I also notice some stress in my eyes from too much light exposure, and some irritation in my ears from the constant explosions.
Now the once beautiful fireworks and its glamor has withered, and more and more people look down on their phones than look up in the sky. It bothers me too, the noise, the lights, and the thoughts it provoked. I want to leave. Just then, as a final shot, around 40 fireworks go off simultaneously, making quite a scene. Everybody including myself get off our phones, and, like the beginning of the show, watch in awe. Then, silence. The show is over. People quickly get up and start leaving, as if nothing happened. I get my things and leave too.
School wasn’t all fun. Some classes, instead of the anticipated discussion of education and advancement, blindly followed a syllabus made not too long after Eisenhower. A troubling amount of people didn’t flush or wash their hands after using the toilet. My roommate kept coming back drunk and noisily made a mess most weekends. Parties soon became a mundane ritual where persisted drunkenness left nothing much but bitterness, both social and gastrointestinal. High expectations, and the things I rendered ideals and great, became mundane daily, weekly activities. People betrayed and turn against one another for the most trivial things.
But it wasn’t all bad, there would be moments of joy, when I am reminded of the youthful fascination I had with this school. The quiet, drowsy quad walking back from the library after a long day, the Krannert Center and its amphitheater, the engaged and passionate professors, and the people.
As I walk back to my house with my friends, talking about the most mundane of things ( ‘we should have bought some kettle corn’), I, like many people, thought that I’ll come again next year.
Jin Whan Bae/ Intern Reporter