Every morning, I have to walk over a mile to my classes. On Wednesdays and Fridays, I have to make the trek at 8:00 a.m. To a lot of college students, this sounds like the worst kind of torture imaginable. Not only do I have to wake up early, even on Fridays, but I have to sludge through the Gainesville humidity for somewhere around 30 minutes to get to class. While this is the first semester I have been forced to make such an undesirable hike, I can confidently say the walk is one of the favorite parts of my day and I contribute it all to taking pictures.
This may sound strange, and like the two things are separate. It might even sound like I am a stalker with hundreds of pictures on my phone of the people I see every day on my walk. I attest that these two assumptions are entirely false (especially the stalker one). This all started when my sentimental side made me feel like I had not taken enough pictures of my college experience. I convinced myself that one day I was going to look back and not be able to accurately remember my time here despite having over 10,000 photos on my phone. So, I set out to take more pictures. Every day I wanted to document the campus I walk through every day so that one day I can show my kids the treacherous walk their mother was forced to make through the swamplands of Gainesville. This is exactly what I did and after a couple of semesters, it has completely changed my mindset about my day and about UF.
While on the hunt for pictures to take to remember my time here, I was forced to really pay attention for the first time. Typically, on my walk to class, I am on my phone or honestly dissociating with Hozier blasting through my headphones. While I still keep Hozier on blast, I now look up from my phone and enjoy what really is a stunning campus.
Even though it is painful to wake up, campus at 8:00 a.m. is one of the best times to see it. The way the sun hits the Spanish moss and highlights the dew on the grass in plaza. All the squirrels are out scavenging for nuts. There are not too many people out and about just yet, so everything still feels calm. Whatever may lie ahead in the day does not seem to matter as much as I let myself fully enjoy my surroundings and the beauty of the nature surrounding me. The task of taking more pictures allowed me to look up from my phone and be present in my surroundings. As I actively sought out pretty things to take pictures of, I started to notice the small things I never had noticed before and I could fully appreciate the position I was in.
Forcing myself to take more pictures throughout my day not only allowed me to be more present on my journeys through campus, but it also allowed me to better understand and appreciate the privilege I have to go to this school. I know our football team sucks, but UF has so much more to offer that frequently goes unnoticed. For one, the way they make their sidewalks to fit the flow of pedestrian traffic as opposed to aesthetic is greatly appreciated. However, on a more serious note, slowing down throughout my commute has genuinely allowed me to be more grateful for where I am, all the friends and connections I have made and all the opportunities I have participated in.
I have never attended a university other than UF, so I cannot confidently say UF is entirely unique in any of these attributes. However, capturing moments through my day by simply taking pictures has made me realize that it does not matter if other schools can compare to UF in whatever aspects are important to you. All that matters is where you are now. You are walking through Plaza as the sun comes up, or through Turlington as five different clubs try to get your attention or past the steam coming out of the sewers. You can do so much with where you are now, and learning to be more present in the moment has allowed me to fully grasp that. I love my 30-minute walk to physics every morning. It is the one part of my day where I do not have to rush (unless I sleep in), I don’t have to talk to anyone, and I can simply be present in the nature and atmosphere of the here and now.