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Small handwriting sample of Kristin's First-Year Student Journals, link to journals home page
Kristin hangs out on campus

Kristin's miniature straw box that looks like the White House

Kristin wears her sunglasses while hanging out on campus

The jockeys ready themselves. Bets are being placed. The gates open. And she’s off! Off to smell the flora that is.

Life is a series of contrasts and polarities that intermingle and collide together to stimulate insanity or complex thoughts. Winter break was a welcome release from the breathlessness of campus life, but being home too long put me out of touch with UT reality. Let’s compare and contrast:

Home is a quiet village. People are up with the sun and in bed at “respectable times.” The roosters occasionally crow at 3 a.m. but the workday begins at 7 a.m., ends at 5 p.m. and all are asleep no later than 10:30 p.m. Work is usually physical. Gardening, moving things, feeding animals, cleaning things—these are the tasks of the day. Local gossip and the happenings of the courthouse flash across the telephone lines. A good scandal surfaces every two years. A good trial surfaces every five to seven years. Days are slow, predictable and lazy, and life is cyclical. Such was the stuff of my winter break at home.

I come back to UT to rediscover:

UT is 50,000 dynamic people all converged on one spot, consciously or unconsciously competing for attention. The day begins whenever one chooses it to begin. Night prowling is the norm. Mostly the work is mental—reading, writing, listening, looking at strange forms of life growing in the quiet of the Petri dish. Gossip is still localized, confined to the dorm hall or the immediate circle of friends. (Perhaps that’s one of the few startling similarities.)

At UT, I feel like I am in some sort of horse race. Last semester, I went and I went and I went and then…it all stopped. I was back in my village, biding my time in the pastures until the next race against deadlines, commitments, time itself. Now I am back on the track, with all my colors and fanfares on, racing against those same old deadlines, projects and requisites. I’ve been running like mad.

Yet, I am tired of running. I am still doing my work, although begrudgingly. I am ahead of deadline. Were there flowers on the racetrack? Did I miss them? Sure, I did miss some of them. I am finding out that the metaphorical UT racetrack is largely an invention of my own mind that can be reinforced by others. As the syllabi make their way to my hands, their crucial dates imprinted in my calendar, I can choose to see my free time vacuumed away. Or, I can choose to outwit the universe and make time for things I care to do. Right now, I am trying to maintain both realities, stay on the track and glance at the flowers.

The miracle of UT is that things are happening all the time (literally morning, noon and night). Campus is not dormant. Nor is it predictable. Life here is cyclical only if I choose for it to be. I love cycles; they promote order—although they may not necessarily be good for me. Where are my much-needed flowers?

The flowers are the deep conversations at midnight. The flowers are the solace of writing poetry for the sake of doing it. Concerts, coffee talks, retreats—these too are the flowers along the racetrack. Fragrant and colorful, they are often neglected or given second priority as our hooves pound against the dirt and we inhale the dust, each in a race to get out of here in a timely manner. Without the flowers, life is a mad dash to an indiscernible finish line. Death, like the rest of life, is an experience, not a finish line. Therefore, gather me my rosebuds while I may.

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