The journal of a university introvert: autumn edition

Corn mazes, apple cider and midterm de-stressing


Collegian File Photo

The leaves are changing color and the cold is setting in.  The scent of sizzling hot chocolate and warm coffee is a familiar sensation, especially in the early hours at the Dining Commons and the start of my 9 a.m. psychology class.  People bustle about in groups, smiles lit up on their faces as they have deep conversations.  I jump slightly as my phone begins to vibrate in my pocket, music momentarily pausing as I draw a long sigh and slide my finger across the screen. I accept the call before tucking the phone back into my coat.  My pair of wireless earplugs are tucked underneath a couple of strands of hair, and as I begin answering the person on the other end of the line, I realize that people are shooting me confused glances.  It takes me a moment to realize why they all look so concerned.

“I look like I’m talking to myself,” I think, feeling suddenly a lot more aware of my surroundings. With no proof in sight that I’m holding a conversation with someone else over a device, I must look ridiculous. My eyes take in the quick glances cast my way as I continue to hold a conversation with the person on the other end of the call. This emotion is akin to insecurity holding me captive, I recall saying things like: “Yeah, I know, I’M A MORON!  I overslept and I’m going to be so late for class.  No, no, no, I don’t think I can make that.  Okay, well K.J. has other things to do which are actually ‘productive’ so K.J. isn’t going to walk down that hill for a third time today. Yeah, I know I’m weird and yes, I think I should stop referring to myself in the third person.”

“Excuse me!”  I call out as a guy in front of me accidentally drops his UCard onto the pavement and continues to walk forward, wholly unaware.  He freezes in his tracks as I lean down and pick his card off the floor, handing it over as he turns around with a surprised look etched onto his face.  I smile kindly, handing him the card as he smiles back and throws me a thank you.

“Rough day?”  He asks to which I furrow my eyebrows, momentarily confused before realization dawns, and I end up slowly shaking my head.

“No, I’m alright, how about you?”  I reply with a question of my own, catching onto the guy’s raised brow before he mutters out a quick, ‘I’m fine, thanks’ before heading off into the distance.

“What was that about?”  I hear the person on the other end of the line ask.

I shrug and continue to speed walk to my class. “No idea, but I have a feeling people think I’m practicing a personal monologue.”

“Ah, so they think you’re talking to yourself?”

“A girl’s gotta have a bit of me time, you know?”

The scoff on the other side of the call has my lips turning up.

“So, you’re creeping people out?”

“On the bright side, I’m sure it’s entertaining.”

Not everyone is made for the cold.  Take me for example. Once that temperature drops below 50 degrees, your girl needs to have on a heavy coat, at least three layers, ear muffs, boots and a hat to top it off.  So, in short, if you ever see that person who looks like the abominable snowman in a red jacket meant for the icy snows of winter, that’ll probably be me.

Believe me, the bright red jacket proves to be useful in more ways than one.  Currently, in my college writing class, there sits less than 20 people, yet, every time I see anyone from that class, it doesn’t click that we’ve met before.  While on my way around Van Meter Hall handing out Halloween chocolate as was the duty of the House Council, I crashed into someone who apparently knew me from, you named it, writing class.  I’m almost positive that the red coat was a dead giveaway, especially since in the middle of celebrating Halloween I was the only one handing out candy while wearing clothes the color of Rudolph’s nose.

Wrong holiday attire.

I’m sure that was going to leave an impression.

“Hey, you’re in my writing class, right?”  The girl asked, and I stared blankly while holding out a bucket of candy.

I grinned cheerily, my attitude changing to that of recognition, though who I was fooling, I’m not sure.

“Oh yeah, we should definitely interact more.”

Interact more.

Interact more?

What did that even mean?

I almost sighed in relief as she grinned back and agreed with me, taking her leave with a smile lit on her face, explaining to her friends how we sort of knew each other.

Funny enough, I found myself smiling too. Sometimes, being recognized does funny things to a person’s self-image.

Haystack rides, warm apple cider, a bit of mashed potatoes and getting lost in corn mazes are just a part of autumn which I find myself enjoying more and more, especially since midterms have set in.

The ever-daunting midterms clash with your other class schedules and leave you restless, and you must attempt to balance the impossible mix of homework, classes, tests and breathing.

Sometimes, the distraction of a hasty retreat is the perfect way to spend a couple of stress-free hours.  In fact, taking myself to a corn maze near the suburbs of Bridgewater was what I considered one of the better decisions I’d made during my 18 years of living.  Don’t get me wrong, corn mazes can be quite frustrating at times, especially if you’ve been in them for over an hour and have looped around the entire place at least three times, only to end up back at the beginning without the finish line anywhere in sight.  But hey, at least while you’re constantly worrying about whether you’ll get out of there before night fall, the thought of exams  coming up doesn’t even make its way into your pre-occupied brain.  And I mean, if the map does get way too complicated to figure out you can always just tag along with a couple of strangers making their way through the maze with a four-year-old in tow who’s apparently deciding directions.

Needless to say, it took much longer than intended to figure our way out of that particular maze, but all in all it was a much-needed stress reliever in a sea of never-ending assignments.

Of course, if there isn’t any time for you to drive all the way off campus to enjoy yourself, sometimes taking into stride a couple minutes of a creative distraction proves to be just as useful.  A couple of my dormmates across the hall love to partake in karaoke nights to get over their stressful schedules, while other people decide to play soft music and hum along or strum a bit on their own respective ukuleles and guitars.  The piano in Van Meter is literally a life saver for me, and I find myself playing it on Friday nights, with a smile lit on my face due to the much-required distraction.  Doodling on paper or doing some craft for all those artsy people out there is the perfect productive measure to reduce a bit of weariness and keep oneself alert.  Even going outside and taking a couple of insta-worthy pictures with a group of friends would be a great way to spend a couple of hours, enjoying the scenic beauty of a pure autumn day whilst also enjoying the comfort of company.  Even planning out the clothes you’re going to wear for the week could provide a quick and easy distraction, like which jacket goes with what, and what shoes you think matches best with a cute outfit.

Personally, my stress reliever consists of taking photographs as I make my way from one class to the other.  It’s easy and efficient, and sometimes gets me a couple of interested glances as I pause during my walk and take quick snaps of the landscape on my phone.  The beautiful autumn colors taking over UMass is a sight to behold and one which I absolutely love capturing in my viewfinder.

I remember an early Monday when I heard my neighbor scream only to realize that her roommate had decided to scare her by hiding in her closet.  It was a late Tuesday night, where everyone was watching a Red Sox game in the basement, cheering at the top of their lungs whilst holding their breaths, wondering what the outcome of the game would be. There was the sound of a piano playing on that cold Wednesday evening as an unknown person played it in one of those closed off rooms, allowing the soft melody to reverberate softly through the hallway.  There was that beautiful scenic view from the top of the hill on those cold, windy Thursdays, as I stood on the edge, taking picture after picture of that glorious autumn sunset.  Then there are those rainy Fridays, when people spend their time baking in the basement, the sweet scent of cake and other delicious pastries filling up the space bringing about a sense of nostalgia and the feeling of home.

“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.

The leaves are changing color and the cold is setting in.  The scent of sizzling hot chocolate and warm coffee is a familiar sensation, especially in the early hours at the Dining Commons and the start of my 9 a.m. psychology class. Sometimes, the scent is too strong, making me feel as though I’m missing something in the cold arms of the autumn winds that rap against my dorm window, forcing it to rattle it in its frame and shiver as though in discomfort.  Other times, the scent is just right, bringing about a warmth that I don’t dare to explain in words, for the feeling is one which one can relate to only in terms of emotion.

I was born underneath an autumn sky, taking my first gasp of breath as the rains of fall caused the trees to tremble and the Earth to hum underneath a cascade of colorful leaves.

Autumn was the first season my eyes opened to.

What was yours?

Kavya Jeganathan can be reached at [email protected]