By Drew Roberts
You don’t need a time machine and a bus ticket to Bethel, New York to go to Woodstock. No, that sensory overload is just a few hours away.
This past November, I found myself in Auburn, Alabama for the most important event in the Heart of Dixie: The Iron Bowl. It was a lot of things, but it was certainly not quiet. Fans clad in orange and blue scowled at those in crimson and white. Divided tailgates served as the microcosm for a storied rivalry that asks any new Alabamian to pick a side. Amidst all the commotion, there I was, feeling both alienated and convicted in the fact that I chose a school where none of this would happen.
Comparing Montevallo with a school ten times its size may seem pointless. After all, people come here for a small school experience. How often do we tout our small class sizes, student-to-faculty ratio and any number of selling points Mavens know by heart? It’s worth noting, however, the stark contrast in college experience other college students may have in the same state as you. I’m not talking about day-to-day life or the number of dining options on campus. I’m asking a simple question: What does your school look like on the weekends?
Most Montevallo students are from central Alabama, meaning they most likely go home for the weekend. This is fairly evident when looking at the abundance of parking spaces that become magically available every Friday afternoon. I, however, am a native Mobilian. If I want to go home, I have to travel three and a half hours and pass more than 200 exits. This means I stay on campus 95% of the time, and, after four years of this, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
To those unfamiliar with how Montevallo is on the weekend, I’ll paint a picture. Each quad is desolate, absent of anyone save those walking to the caf. The caf itself is populated exclusively by those returning from church and a few other holdovers sitting alone. A study session on King Quad is free from the abrasive roar of a leaf blower or lawn mower. In the winter, with a grey sky and gentle fog, there’s an almost purgatorial quality to campus. If you play your cards right, you can go an entire day without speaking to someone.
Why do I hold this in such high regard? For a simple reason, our world is loud. In a 2003 interview, the late David Foster Wallace, acclaimed author of “Infinite Jest,” said, “There’s an almost dread that comes up, I think, here about having to be alone and having to be quiet, and you see that. When you walk into most public spaces in America it isn’t quiet anymore. They pipe music through, and the music is really easy to make fun of [because] it’s usually really horrible music, but it seems significant that we don’t want things to be quiet, ever, anymore.”
Though in this instance he’s talking about reading, I think it can easily be applied to the college experience. Let’s go back to Auburn for a second. The Iron Bowl is not the only time I’ve been there. Over the years, I’ve visited the Plains fairly regularly, and what has struck me is the staggering number of things to do there. Yet, what follows this feeling is a sense of claustrophobia, despite how big the campus and town are. This isn’t limited exclusively to Auburn, however. Even at Montevallo, how often do we accompany our walk to class with a carefully curated Spotify playlist? How often do we have our necks craned downward, distracting ourselves with phones?
I don’t want to sound like a curmudgeon, nor do I want to bash bigger schools. People who go there are getting the college experience they paid for. I would, however, like to encourage anyone reading this to look at the gift you’ve been given by attending the University of Montevallo. There are few places as silent and serene, poetic and pure as our empty campus. When the bricks are free of footsteps, Montevallo truly shines.
As we enter this new semester, treat each weekend not as an occasion of boredom, but an avenue for creativity and reflection. Embrace the ennui. Let’s not all do it at once, though. The last thing I want is a crowd.