Recently, I took a weekend trip to Chicago with BGSU’s Honors Learning Community, and though large cities come with certain challenges and anxiety-inducers, I can honestly say it’s the happiest I’ve been in a while.
As college students, we can start to get familiar with our environment- the same campus, the same buildings, the same people, the same places to eat, day in and day out. It’s easy to feel like we’re just going through the motions, and we start to lose our lust for life. I know I start to feel this around the midpoint of each semester, which is why it was the perfect time to travel outside of this little bubble.
Getting out and seeing the world gave me so much appreciation for everything around me. Looking back, I can pinpoint the exact moment I felt my sense of wonder come back to me. Visiting the Adler Planetarium revived my admiration for not only the natural beauty of the universe but for the developments in technology that have made all of this knowledge available to us (which, I’ll admit, I did not think I would appreciate as much as I did)! I was absolutely astonished by the level of innovation represented by astronomical technologies from as early as the late 1400s and spacecraft from half a century ago. I was completely inspired by the desire the people who came before us had to learn more about the world and what lies beyond what we know. I felt silly at the time, but in those space exploration exhibits I felt tears start to fill my eyes as I remembered just how much bigger the universe is than we tend to think, and since then, I’ve seen everything in a different light.
The rest of my trip was spent being an unabashed tourist, taking pictures of the skyline to my heart’s content and feeling like Rapunzel in Tangled when she finally gets out of the tower (just smell the grass, the dirt… y’know). Even when we had to figure out a new route back to the place we stayed at from halfway across the city multiple times in the dark, cold, and wind, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky I am to have had that experience. As cheesy as it sounds, I even felt lucky to say I’ve experienced waiting for the bus to show up in those conditions- I remember genuinely thinking to myself, “This is how it would be if I actually lived here!” I didn’t even feel anxious posing for photos while hundreds of other people walked by me, which is totally out of the usual for me- usually, I’d never be caught dead causing another person to be inconvenienced on my own account.
Walking to class that first day back in Bowling Green felt different. Physically, I was exhausted and in all sorts of pain. But mentally, my entire mindset had changed, and I had started to see the little things again. As someone who loves fall, but tends to struggle with the colder weather in terms of mental health, this is just what I needed. Though it’s no miracle cure for the feeling of winter on its way, I gladly welcome my sense of wonder back into my life to help me through these seasons. I will take in every last second of the changed leaves against the backdrop of our gorgeous campus. I will not feel any shame for enjoying the feeling of drinking hot pumpkin-flavored tea and shivering on my way to class because I forgot my coat. The little things feel so much bigger now. You can’t say it doesn’t feel just a little bit amazing to look out the windows that make up the corner of the 3rd floor of the Student Union and see all those different colors- if you can, keep reading!
As a little kid, I had the biggest dreams about the future and an amazing sense of wonder- I spent early elementary school wanting to be an astronaut, a ballerina, and even a painter (before I realized the Renaissance was over), and I wanted to do all those things simultaneously. I would give anything to go back to that, and I think this is the first step in the right direction. There’s absolutely no reason I couldn’t do any of those things- just that my goals have changed since then, thankfully.
Maybe I’m taking it too far by romanticizing every little situation I find myself in, but I would recommend it to anyone struggling to find joy in mundane life (or anyone who struggles big-time during their luteal phase, for that matter), and I’d take this feeling over the way I felt before any day. From the most genuine place in my heart, I think everyone deserves to have the sense of wonder I have found within myself since traveling to Chicago. If you’re anything like me and you tend to struggle when the seasons change in regards to mental health and happiness, I cannot suggest enough that you find something that revives your own sense of wonder, because life has been so much more colorful and beautiful since that spark came back.
Moving Forward: What to do to keep your sense of wonder alive when you’re stuck on campus
Most of my personal favorite activities to foster that spark can be done while on campus, since I can’t just travel all the time (though I would love to). Lately, I have been writing (an obvious one, maybe), going for screen-free walks, and making Spotify playlists. If you’re not a fan of making your own playlists, you could check out Spotify’s “daylist” feature, it’s been super accurate for me so far, plus they’ll give you a fun title based on the music in the mix! A personal favorite that it once gave me was “yearning pumpkin spice Wednesday afternoon,” if that tells you anything about me. You might be thinking that these sound similar to self-care activities, and you would be absolutely correct! Taking care of yourself is the first and most important step toward seeing the beauty in everything else- after all, without your body and mind, you wouldn’t be able to experience any of it in the first place. And with the end of the semester and finals just around the corner, I’m so glad this realization happened to me when it did, because it has been extremely helpful as far as staying mindful and peaceful, even when things get stressful.