A few weeks back, I decided to change up my after-work routine in a variety of ways.
I like my life like I like my cereal, and my women. Not stale…but Black.
Beginning with my regular workout habits, I opted out of 24 hour fitness and in to the closet that our apartment marketing team cutely calls a “fully loaded workout center.” When there is a line for the cardio equipment, that usually means that there is one person grunting on or near the questionably assembled treadmill. It’s pretty cramped, but it’s different, and that’s the point.
Poignantly pungent B.O. (book odor, in this case) struck me as I found an alternative reading/studying joint—the public library. Built in the mid-seventies, Fretz Park Library on Beltline and Hillcrest is a nice, yet sadly decaying reminder that the people still desire free knowledge in their communities. Despite the (arguably contrived) epic symbolism of the public library, this place has two shortcomings: One, the actual brevity of the chair legs (I felt like a child, sitting at a wee desk, using a church-pew pencil to scribble call numbers on scratch paper), and two, the early closing time. If I weren’t at work from 8-5 Monday thru Friday, 9PM would be a perfectly reasonable time for me to cease productivity and get drunk, but I’m just starting to peak around that time.
Thus, the reason why I am where I am at this very moment.
Thus the reason why I text messaged my friend, “Insanely weird request. Do you have a password for UTD wireless?”
Knowing I wasn’t going to get my fill at the public library, I used what little laptop battery I had left to look up UTD’s library hours. Much to my delight, the Richardson facility closes at 2AM, Monday-Thursday. I like to think of this as a funny joke the administration plays on 'of age' drinkers, causing them to choose between the bar (not the exam, but the watering hole) and the library (not the bar). They both close at the same time, so choose wisely.
After a short, windows down car ride, and a timidly shameful entry through electronic sensors, here I am, sitting in an echo-enhanced study space at the basement level of the McDermott library. Unbeknown (at least I hope) to the students and campus security guards that pass me by, I don’t actually have any business being here. Although I’ve taken a few moments to reflect on and relate to my late night library experiences at UT, I don’t feel as pathetically nostalgic as I thought I would.
Perhaps the idea of reconnecting with “Undergrad Andrew” is a romantic and tempting notion, but a lame one, no doubt. As these two “Student Patrol” volunteers unknowingly pass me by, never second guessing my student status, I know that I can temporarily maintain the façade. But what good does that do me? When I leave here tonight, I’ll rest my head at a reasonable hour, wake up, and drive my pumpkin back to work the next day. After several return journeys to Austin since graduating, after several vain attempts to recapture what I thought I could regain, I’m realizing, more and more that I can’t capture that experience again. I can only move forward. And who would want to go anywhere else?
In the eyes of the Student Patrollers, every person on this campus, barring the occasional hobo, neatly belongs in a category: student, professor, administrator, parent. Where in the f does a 2 years graduated, young, barely professional guy like myself belong? If they only had the presence of mind to peek over my shoulder, or read the word “LIBRARY” written on my hand, they might get the hint that I don’t fit in one of these categories. Just like I didn’t, they don’t have the foresight to recognize this mark as a sign of the 40 Hour work week.
On my hand, the word “LIBRARY” reminds me not only that I need to go to the library to return some books. More importantly, it reminds me that after an 8 hour draining session, I sometimes need an ink-on-flesh impetus to keep pushing…creatively, intellectually, and emotionally.
I shouldn’t need daily reminders to do what I enjoy doing.
I shouldn’t need a dayplanner to pencil in a 30 minute intellectual stimulation session.
But I’m no longer in an environment founded on and devoted to the practice of thinking.
I’m convinced though, that this only seems depressing.
Knowing that I am in control of my current situation, my own fate as a thinker and an artist, the thought (and process) of actualizing these impetuses is more invigorating than a bathtub of Red Bull and a mound of coke. By pursuing these passions and incurring their risks, outside the safe grounds of an educational institution, I have become more protective over and adamant about them. Knowing (and acknowledging) that I have reached life after college, I refuse to say that I have no other option to, but I rejoice in the reality that I can move forward.
Sure, I’m not enrolled, and I don’t fit in an assumed category here, but I’ll be damned if that stops the pursuit of progress.
And what would the creative endeavor be without the threat of a trigger-happy, taser wielding Security Officer?