University in November
Tuesday, February 19th was a miserably cold day in Tokyo, with scattered snow flurries and a ground that was wet from overnight rain and daytime flurries. There was no accumulation of snow on the ground. It was just depressingly wet and gray. And it occurred to me that the day was just like how I remember going to university in Canada in November.
The start of university in September is scary and exhilarating because you are away from home for an extended period of time for the first time in your life, living among strangers, making all kinds of adjustments, and dealing with the work load of university study. But the weather is still very summery. Then in October you have adapted somewhat, met and become friendly with new people, and reached some kind of pace for yourself in your academic work load. The weather is beautifully autumny. The nights are chilly but the days are warm, and the golden foliage is like a drug to the eyes.
But then November and December come like an iron dawn. There is no quieting snow on the ground - not until January. But the trees are bare, the nights are freezing, and the days are filled with a cold wind. Daytime snow flurries are common, and the ground is always wet and gray for some reason, just like Tokyo on Tuesday 19th. After the glorious Thanksgiving holiday in Canada young people return to their colleges like slaves, heavy feet dragging across the wet earth. Your old high school girlfriend, who went to a different school, used the Thanksgiving holiday to break up with you officially
You won’t be going home again until Christmas, and some not even then. Plus there are exams and a million assignment due dates ahead of you. Classes are dragging. Long evenings are spent in the library reading those thousand pages a week you have to consume just to stay afloat. And you can’t concentrate very well because of the ex-girlfriend thing and because of the scent of that strong industrial cleaner the custodial staff use at all institutions, from elementary school to prison. On top of that you have to go home in the dark and eat with hundreds of others in those cafeterias reeking of food smells the memory of which will last a lifetime, just like the smell of tobacco from that summer job in the cigarette plant back home.
Everything is shadow. Life is shades of gray. You’re lonely. There’s a girl in a couple of your classes you like the look of, but you’re afraid to talk to her. Besides, she probably has a boyfriend, or you figure you’re probably just too dissimilar that it’s not worth it. And there are snow flurries outside again. You feel like slitting your wrists in the dormitory shower. It’s time to find an on-campus club that interests you. Maybe the student radio station, or the Sexual Education Centre, or the Campus Crusade for Christ. That’s November at university in Canada. Just like February 19th in Tokyo. Ahhh, the good old days!