Why I love school

by Cypress Chernik

Photo Source: https://www.danweaver.ca/envira/toronto/, Cypress Chernik

The St. George campus is not just enormous in size, but it also plays home, school, work, third space, and a plethora of other things to thousands of students. It can be deeply overwhelming to be surrounded by so much action and life at all times; many people are receptive, in different ways, to the presence of such a prolific quantity of human beings. It is even isolating—the constant drive and hustle of Toronto is magnified in a bustling university campus full of stress, sweat, and coffee breath. As a poet and a self-proclaimed sensitive person, I expected to find U of T too immense, despite being a native Torontonian. What I’ve found so far, however, has been inspiration and poetic motivation. Every time I am on campus, I am reminded of my purpose—yet unclear and hazy as it is, it might be better to say that I am simply reminded of ‘purpose’ itself—a driving force behind the life that happens to me (or the self that happens amidst life). 

What is it about being at school that inspires me like this? I am not extroverted enough to truly enjoy the company of thousands of strangers, nor do I relish the collective body odour of a sleep-deprived micropopulation. But, there is an intangible force that keeps student life rumbling on; the feeling of being a unique piece in a busy anthill. I understand, often, that there is little to no real-world significance to me and my activities on campus: study, drink coffee, attend classes, discuss men with friends, sit in one of the hundreds of brimming study rooms and complain about economics to anyone who listens. This is an everyday routine that sounds absolutely meaningless, and yet it means everything to me. Our individual routines and lives are so full of personal meaning that sometimes, in moments of calm lucidity, I get overwhelmed with the sheer importance of everyone around me—the love, the desperation, the turmoil and anxiety, the peace, and the relaxation. They aren’t wholly visible because they are a fact of existence. I don’t know what the people around me are going through, but I know that they are, and I know that life is happening to them just as profoundly as it is happening to me. I am viscerally inspired by this. It is almost mechanical in nature, and I think that everyone is pushed forward by everyone else in this way; no matter how intrinsically motivated we are, the collective of a driven student body is inescapable. And why would one want to escape it? Many people confirm that they study better in libraries and coffee shops, further propelled by the energy of others. School is a shared experience, even in an overwhelming place like U of T. 

Robarts library is architecturally hateful, but it is representative of a shared experience. Instead of being a third space, it has become some sort of combined first, second, and third space, like a parallel place to standard divisions—people study and socialise, eat and sleep, play video games and relax…really, people do just about anything at Robarts because it is a place to exist. Anytime someone asks why I like studying at Robarts, my answer is just that it’s a very endearing place to be because of the magnitude of people who are just… being. In terms of studying, it can be too much, but rather than overwhelming, I find Robarts a very distinctive place in that I can’t think of any equivalent to it anywhere, except maybe a high school, which would still lack the academic submersion and drive specific to U of T. 

In all its difficulty and potential for despicability (it is still a school, after all), I find the campus an overwhelming place in a positive way. When I walk down the street, I am fascinated by the happenings around me, in particular people—clothes, gaits, silhouettes, choice of caffeinated beverage, and the snippets of conversation that I catch when I pass a pair or a group. The experience of being becomes so much more real on campus. I am not just aware of the weather and the accredited beauty of the campus but also the presence of life around me. The hermetic nature of U of T culture and society creates a sort of bubble that makes isolation un-isolating and overwhelmingness vivid; constant action, constant drive, and constant change make for an intense experience of shared humanity. Many things about the way we live are not natural or inherent, but as students and as a whole, we carve out nooks and spaces in the wider shape of a university campus—places that bend to fit needs that include caffeine, gossiping, and sleeping. 

I find it artistically inspiring to consider the depth of student life like this. I perceive it emotionally when I am on campus, and it often drives me to write poetry, or just spend more time wandering and thinking (an obstacle to my ever present mountain of academic tasks). Toronto and U of T can be overwhelming, smelly, all-consuming and hungry still, but it, like anything that hungers, is alive. And so are you. 

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