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Postcards From the Library

by | Mar 4, 2024 | Campus, Lifestyle | 0 comments

Same as it ever was

As reading week progressed, I couldn’t bear to open social media for more than one minute. Each time I checked it, fear would grip me that I would have to be subjected to more images of people at ski resorts, hanging out in Montreal, or attending parties. I wasn’t invited to any of these events because I needed to spend the week in the near-empty library and pace aimlessly back and forth in the empty corridors of MacEwan.

When the realization came that a week doing assignments would be my future and now present, I compiled a list of things I needed to do. Then, I glumly considered the word count that all three projects would require in total: zero words written but just 5,000 to go!

“Come travel to Europe… to the white sand beaches of Mexico… to nightlife in Ibiza,” said the targeted ads that seemed to pop up more frequently on my phone. “You deserve a break from the crushing weight of words,” said another. “Look, we’re not criticizing your decisions,” the ads seemed to say. “We’re just a little concerned about your well-being.” Then, with no sense of irony, my phone’s playlist played “Once In a Lifetime” by Talking Heads.

How did I get here…?

That night, I dreamt of a reading week funeral procession with an open hearse that would parade down the third-floor library shelves. Every once in a while, some poor studious person would get up from their table essay’d over, lift the lid on the coffin, and then rush back to their spot while shouting, “No words, no words, I have no words.”

At Deville Coffee, three overly caffeinated consumers sat slumped in the wooden chairs with their winter coats still on but their zippers undone because of this February’s warmth. They stared at the floor for divine inspiration to relieve the mental burden of the homework not yet finished.

The problem with February is that it’s the longest month of the year despite its short length — and this year’s February was one day longer thanks to the leap year. It’s past the shortest days of winter, but there’s no ever-present summer sun, and the temperatures are neither warm nor cold, with days that feel impossible to dress for. There aren’t any significant holidays or meals for us to plan our calendars accordingly. Here, in Edmonton, February is always… whenever it is.

Some find that depressing, but it’s the perfect metaphor for a reading week spent at school: a vacuum created in an already nondescript period of time. It’s a collective moment for all of us to question if our decision of what we’ll do that week is really the best choice. It’s a moment to reclaim and waste perceived time and to ask what ulterior purpose a break has for mental health if productivity would genuinely be a better use of time. Whatever decision we make, deep down, we all know that the alternative is probably the better option for our sanity. Reading week will just put one’s mind into circular logic.

You can hear this feeling in the empty hallways, which are accompanied by the whirring of the vending machines with their noisy presence now evident in buildings void of conversation and laughter. Whatever reading week holds for anyone, “Once In a Lifetime” keeps rattling around in my brain. Talking Heads wrote so much music appropriate for existential solitude. To dance to, sure, but to always maintain a knowing link to oblivion. It keeps playing but with an amendment of my own: “Time isn’t holding up, time isn’t after us, time only feels like it’s running out.”

Photo credits to Liam Newbigging

David Falk

The Griff


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