"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
February 20, 2013
Hamster Cage - by Michela Hunter
by College Voices
Michela Hunter
Freshman, Brigham Young University

It felt good to be all dressed up and going out with my friends on a school night. I chattered with Vanessa, Kara, Heidi, and Krista, who were all to my left, while determinedly ignoring the couple sitting to my right. So awkward. Still, they didn’t pay any attention to me and I didn’t pay any attention to them, so no matter.

The theatre was nearly full. I thumbed through my program, checked my Facebook, talked to Vanessa some more, checked the time on my phone. Why did these sorts of things always start late?

At last the lights began to dim, the orchestra quieted, and a prayer was said before the production began. Then the first few actors walked out onto the stage.

From our place in the balcony, we had a pretty good vantage point to see everything that was happening. I was so excited. I’d never seen Phantom of the Opera onstage before, just the movie, so BYU’s production of it seemed like as good a time as any to do so. The first note reverberated through the theatre, through me, and I settled into my seat happily, thinking oh, this is going to be so good. I was glad for an escape from the rigors of winter semester classes, which had been accelerating steadily, and for the next few hours forgot all about them.

But it didn’t last long. When Phantom was over, we walked out of the Harris Fine Arts Center, which was within sight of most of the buildings in which we had classes, across the street and up the hill to our warmly lit dorm building. The walk barely took five minutes.

This is my life now. It’s a little strange being so close to everywhere I’d ever really need to go when I’m used to a fifteen-minute drive to get anywhere. Instead, I’m walking to get pretty much everywhere on campus, as well as to some of the places that are nearby. Such proximity can be, like almost anything about college life, a good thing or a bad thing; generally it’s a good thing because I can run out the door five minutes before my class starts and still be on time, but bad, very bad, when I get restless and tire of the same scenery every day.

There are times during which it is evident that the world I inhabit is tiny. My life is essentially contained within a hamster cage; the mountains are the walls, the BYU Creamery the little food tray from which I glean nourishment, the buildings on campus intellectual (and sometimes physical) wheels through which I run endlessly.

Any other freshman who doesn’t have a car will likely have a good idea as to what I’m referring, because for the most part that’s what the freshman experience is like. The dorms are our world; we are essentially babysat by our RAs; and for the most part, other freshmen are the only people with whom we interact and socialize. On occasion, some kind car-owning soul will take pity on you and drive you off-campus for a short span of time; however, for the most part you live, eat, sleep, learn, and play in the same space for weeks on end.

Which is perfectly fine, of course. No one needs to leave campus. There are plenty of groceries at the creamery, supplies for anything you can think of at the bookstore. There are plenty of various shenanigans to get up to on campus if you know about them. There’s the International Cinema, which features movies from around the world; or the Museum of Art, Divine Comedy shows or the various activities going on in the Wilk. You could even explore the library for fun, if you really wanted to. Why anyone would want to leave when they have such wonderful resources of food and fun within a five-minute walk, I can’t imagine.

Except that when you’re like me, you can never stay cooped up in one place for too long—even if it’s a campus as large as this one. You have to constantly be creating new adventures and finding new ways to turn the hamster cage upside-down. Otherwise, you will get bored even with the exciting occurrences all over campus and be condemned to the average life of the average freshman, busily doing homework, hanging out in the dorms, and doing nothing but watching movies every weekend.

It definitely can get monotonous, going to the same buildings day after day, running through the same wheels in the hamster cage. The funny thing is, though, that although my world seems to have shrunk to encompass just a small segment of Provo, the effect has been an expansion of my horizons. Because we have been grounded to campus, my friends and I have been having to become much more creative in finding things to do without getting too bored.

I myself have been realizing that, although living on campus can and sometimes does feel like being stuck perpetually in one place, it does several things: one, it teaches you to be self-sufficient in learning how to get places on your own; two, it makes you appreciate even more the kindness of those who on occasion are willing to take the time out of their day to drive you somewhere. And, perhaps best of all, you learn to create your own adventures, an invaluable skill in its own right. My life might feel like it's contained within a hamster cage right now, but if I have any say in that, it's going to be the most adventuresome hamster cage ever. All it takes is learning to change up the wheels once in a while.

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