A UCF Groundskeeper Taught Me How To Live In The Now

A UCF Groundskeeper Taught Me How To Live In The Now

The morning of September 28, 2016.
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Wednesday waked me with a weary twilight lit room. I think I've overslept and throw off my bed covers. I still feel groggy after my shower and from last night but I can't think about yesterday. Today was still mine, at least the morning was so far. I get dressed and walked out into the hallway to find unfilled trash bags next to trash and overflowing trash bags in the kitchen. Across the window sill in the common area was a row of empty, green Dos Equis beer bottles, hidden behind the shades and on display anyone outside this side of the building.

I walked out of the apartment to where the sun peaked through the low-hanging clouds while the ghost moon stained a cloudless, orphan blue sky above. The campus landscapers had already cut the grass and foliage and sat in the shade of their manicured lawn. Work rewarded work with quiet completeness. That's why I like the mornings; the process of having work to do and having it done to make the rest of the day yours. This and to leave the dorm behind.

I had been walking to class the usual route and it's long but the mornings are great practice for taking your time. Next to the trail I walked in the parking lot were two groundskeepers collecting trash bags near the still dormant dormitories. I don't make eye contact usually when I'm walking out in public, but one of them decided to. He was portly and had the furrows of a totem pole head and a ponytail a horse might mistake for his own. He caught me off guard and said, "Good morning," and after a brief pause continued with, "You look like you have the whole world under control," or something to that effect.

I don't remember the exact phrasing but I then replied, "Good morning" back with the answer "I think so," somewhat with a smile and carried on. I had been carrying my Oxford edition of John Milton's works in one hand and walking with a straight posture and good stride. I wonder if that caught his gaze and made him infer further in an innocent way.

Working in a university, you're bound to have that conversation when everyone is practically a student and more or less crossing each other's paths. It could have been my tense lips contrasted with my squinted eyes and brows. I had the tunnel vision of a person on a treadmill, not thinking of anything out of motion. I needed to work, I needed the moment to myself but it was shared instead with a stranger who saw right through me.

The night before was spent with my roommates, me behind my door, them yelling and banging on my door. The more I mention them, the more immortalized they become. They are no more mates than they are room for improvement. I've kept reminding myself that they are insignificant boys without sensibilities. They care for none and God help whatever and whoever they do care about. I know better than to give them free real estate but here is the exception.

That morning, even if it felt out of place, made me feel good because I was doing the right thing: being a student. Before any roommates came into the picture and left soon after, I was never to blame for them or their behavior towards me. I was grateful for the recognition of that moment with the groundskeeper who helped me remember I belonged and that there are three types of days everyone has. Yesterday is one less day to worry about, tomorrow needs no worry because tomorrow doesn't exist yet, and today is all I have and what I do now matters because I matter. To paraphrase Mark Twain, if you do the right thing, you'll never be wrong.

Cover Image Credit: Brent Mitchell Wiggins

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A Letter To My Freshman Dorm Room As I Pack Up My Things

Somehow a 15' x 12' room became a home.

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Dear Geary 411,

With your creaky beds, concrete walls, and mismatched tile floors, you are easily overlooked as just another room we were randomly assigned to— but you were different. Inside your old walls, I have made some of the best memories of my life that I will hold on to forever.

Thank you for welcoming my neighbors in with open arms who quickly became friends who didn't knock and walked in like you were their own.

I feel like an apology is needed.

We're sorry for blaring the music so loud while getting ready and acting like we can actually sing when, in reality, we know we can't. Sorry for the dance parties that got a bit out of control and ended with us standing on the desks. Sorry for the cases of the late-night giggles that came out of nowhere and just would not go away. Sorry for the homesick cries and the "I failed my test" cries and the "I'm dropping out" cries. We're sorry for hating you at first. All we saw was a tiny and insanely hot room, we had no idea what you would bring to us.

Thank you for providing me with memories of my first college friends and college experiences.

As I stand at the door looking at the bare room that I first walked into nine months ago I see so much more than just a room. I see lots and lots of dinners being eaten at the desks filled with stories of our days. I see three girls sitting on the floor laughing at God knows what. I see late night ice cream runs and dance battles. I see long nights of homework and much-needed naps. Most importantly, I look at the bed and see a girl who sat and watched her parents leave in August and was absolutely terrified, and as I lock you up for the last time today, I am so proud of who that terrified girl is now and how much she has grown.

Thank you for being a space where I could grow, where I was tested physically, mentally and emotionally and for being my home for a year.

Sincerely,

A girl who is sad to go

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When Was The Last Time You Were Alive?

If you can't post it for everyone to see, was it truly a remarkable moment?

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Being alive is an essentially effortless act.

In theory, as long as you're eating food, drinking water, and performing as a human, assuming no major health conditions, most of us are living.

The tragedy I see most often is so very few of us are alive.

Now, I'm not suggesting you drop your textbooks and sprint up a mountain, or go broke trying to find yourself in new activities and events.

That's the illusion pressed onto so many of us. Social Media, more importantly, FOMO, has taught us that in order to truly be alive we need to make sure we travel far and wide, eat gourmet and unique food, and essentially, immerse ourselves in something phenomenal. However, regardless of what you do- don't do it without an audience and the value of your experience will only be justified by the number of likes you accrue on your #bestvacation ever because you #lovenature. With your back to the camera and wispy hair flowing in the beach air, you hit all of your angles, how else will you prove that you're alive to Instagram?

I fell for this too. I spent so much of my life constantly trying to get to the next phase life had to offer. High school was fun, but I was counting the days until graduation. Growing up in a small hometown wasn't awful, but I had sticky note calendars until my next vacation. And day in and day out, events would happen all around me that were just too "normal." I wasn't alive, but I was living.

Setting your soul on fire and truly living is so much more difficult than you could ever expect, but not because you have to drain savings and take along a buddy to snap all the perfect moments.

Choosing to be alive is realizing how important it is to be in this moment or phase in life and accepting it for all its worth. Instead of racing to the finish line or trying to sprint into your next season of assumed happiness, take time to notice all the beautiful and small things that make this moment so important. There is so much life to be found in simple moments.

Semesters are ending, we are all racing to summer. Perhaps in the process, take note of the routine cafeteria worker that constantly smiles at you and says hello. Or perhaps, giggle at the fact that in just a few short weeks that bus driver you see every single morning won't be apart of your morning routine.

The farther I get from what used to be my normal, the more I miss that season of life. I haven't lived in my hometown since I was eighteen, but I miss the simplicity that came with my drives to high school listening to Kanye West and the coziness of a small town opening its doors to start a new day. I never stopped to be alive in those moments, I was just simply living.

Wherever your next phase of life might be, it will always be there. You will always have something else coming. However, once this moment is gone. It's truly gone. Don't waste beautiful views trying to capture just the right picture for Instagram, take in the moment.

Living and experiencing life can be as simple as trusting that you're exactly where you need to be in life. Cherish each moment as you're in it. The next moment is coming whether you're ready or not.

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