Cai: Live in the moment

When I was applying to colleges, I never understood why “campus environment” was an item for evaluation on almost every college rating website.

We go to school to study, not to sightsee, I thought. I held that thought until this autumn, when a shower of golden leaves poured over my head and washed away all my worries about the next day’s exam.

Before then I didn’t realize autumn was here. It had been here for a while; I just didn’t bother to look up. Unfortunately, I might have missed a lot more than just autumn.

On a sunny day, I crossed Euclid Avenue near the Main Quad, and saw almost everyone in the crowd walking with their heads down, headphones in or staring at their cellphones. I wondered if they knew how beautiful it looked when the sun shed its light on them.

Most of the time, I was one of them, taking a sunny afternoon for granted. But sometimes, I would be surprised by the tiny delights that popped into my life. I was thrilled to find how many delightful details there are on our campus for us to explore. The only thing we need to do is look carefully.

I’m not used to seeing wild squirrels. Every time I saw them on campus I couldn’t help but slow down. Common sense tells me that they dig holes in the ground and store their nuts, but it was just intriguing seeing them actually doing so.

Slow down and take a look at how busy they are living their lives. Just the idea that we are living along with all of these adorable creatures on our campus is cheerful enough. On a lucky day, you might even see rabbits.

As packed as our days are with homework and Netflix, it is always worth taking a few moments outside. Take a walk around the North Residential Village. Feel the dewdrops on the grass and listen to the sound of fallen leaves crunching under your feet. Pay attention to street lamps. You will be surprised how a lot of them have stickers on the lamppost. If you walk near Taplin, you might find one that says “Idlewild,” which is my favorite.

One time, I walked past Wade Commons and heard someone playing “City of Stars,” a song from the film “La La Land.” Hearing someone play a beloved song can turn your entire day around.

Go find a piano in Wade, the Tinkham Veale University Center or in the first-year residential halls when you feel like playing something. You never know whose day you can light up.

On your way to Uptown, take a detour. Go to the back alley behind the Greek houses alongside Juniper. You will find a path with wooden floor tiles and ivy growing on the walls. You can peek through the windows and vaguely see string lights inside the houses, still alight. You may find yourself wondering who has lived there and what story happened there. A path not often traveled on the campus is like the rabbit hole in Alice’s Wonderland, a secret garden of your own.

I found Post-It notes on the mirrors of restrooms cheering people up. Here is my favorite one: “Thank you for existing,” signed by “A message from the universe.”

Sometimes we don’t have to tire ourselves out looking for meanings, since our existence alone is already a miracle. Our daily routines might feel meaningless, but that does not have to get in the way of our celebration of living.

When we pay attention to seemingly meaningless and mundane details around us, we might be surprised how colorful life already is. Sometimes, being astonished by a squirrel, finding a sticker on the lamppost, hearing a familiar song, discovering an unexplored place or reading a lovely Post-It note can be enough to light our days. When we live in the moment, we can feel our lives being enriched.

Plus, we just had our first snow this year. If you missed the autumn and probably most of the other seasons like I did, at least don’t miss winter this time.

Yingying Cai is a first-year anthropology major.