By: Oryza Astari, CLASS OF 2016
Last Thursday, I had to FaceTime in to a sisterhood activity with my sorority and a meeting for TEDxFurmanU because of the Snow Day. Just two days before that, I made a decision to go to class despite the snowfall, putting my life and safety at risk, because Furman decided not to close campus or even issue a delay.
It is just another week in the life of a commuter. That’s right, I commute; by “commute,” I do not mean the five-minute drive from the Vinings to campus. I live at my house, the “home” you would refer to when you go home for Christmas or Easter, here in Greenville. I live in Mauldin, where the commute to Furman is an average of about 40 minutes—30 twice a week where my first class is at 11:30 a.m. and the roads are less busy, and about 45 thrice a week when I am trying to make my 9:30 a.m. class on time whilst everyone else is going to work.
Why do I commute? The answer is complicated. My parents had to move back to our home country, Indonesia, to meet the rising demands of higher education in the U.S., which puts me, the eldest child, as the “second in command” in the family hierarchy. As second in command, I made a sacrifice for my family in the form of not being able to live on campus for a semester and taking care of our house, my teenage brother, and my princess of a dog.
While I truly enjoy being able to sleep on my own bed and cuddle with my dog, have all of my clothes in one place, have family as my only roommate, and leave the Furman bubble every night, the commuter’s life is a hard one.
The probability of me ever experiencing the “barn going up on a Tuesday” phenomenon is slim to none. I am not always going to fully understand all the conversations about what happened on Friday or Saturday night downtown or at some party. When my classes are canceled but organizations still meet, I am taking into account that one-hour, one-gallon drive for that short meeting. While I have resorted to Google Hangout or FaceTime to make certain activities in lieu of my presence, a projected image on a phone screen is simply not enough. Being a commuter this semester has taught me that it is extremely difficult, yet so important, to be completely present within my social, academic, and extra-curricular circles.
The difficulty of being present is not limited to commuters or myself by any means. The “busy culture” that is rampant among us twenty-something-year-olds hinders us to be present in every sense of the word. We all have our legitimately busy, “hell” days or weeks—we go to Furman, after all—but there are times when we are really not all that busy. We simply do not make the time and effort to reach out to our friends, go to meetings, and just be present, because it is easy and the pressure causes us to retreat to the place where we feel most safe, sheltered from responsibilities, expectations, and demands. That may mean hibernating in your apartment and interacting with those who are closest to you in proximity because of convenience.
However, everything that is easy in life is not worth having. We can all work to be more present at all things and battle against this “busy culture,” no matter the color of the sticker on your car.
All it takes is a little effort. I schedule meals or coffee dates with friends because a change in address does not mean a change in relationships. When I cannot literally be present something, it does not mean that I do not want to be there. So I send a quick text or email to notify someone of my absence and relay my desire to be there, rather than just skipping out. A few seconds of typing can save a lot more time and energy now than later on, when things in life start to fall apart. When it comes to life, choose to struggle now rather than later because being present is something that we can realistically aspire to be, and we owe it to those whom we cherish and ourselves to do better.
Having commuter status has helped me not to take intangible things like time, distance, promises, and friendships for granted. For those who live on campus, you have the privilege of being able to do all of these things within walking distances. Take advantage of it. You are already there—all it takes is a little drive to commit to being present.