Most days, my classes end as night begins. I walk out to softly, glowing oranges and dusky blues. The dimming environment becomes a comforting blanket after the stresses of the day. It is usually a brief respite though. There are club meetings and the omnipresent threat of work still to be done. But as night advances, your sense of time elongates. I am usually absorbed by the computer screen, its glow lighting up the darkness. It is so easy to lose hours as there is no deadline for a long time yet. The consequences of staying up are also quite far away. By 2:00 in the morning, everything falls silent and still and its only me left typing at my laptop.
The night is intoxicating to me. I drink it in because it is my time. During the day, I am forever a slave to my schedule, shivering from one classroom to the next. Reflection in between is rare. There is always something to be done. So even as my head begins ache dully, I realize that I achieve greater clarity in the silent hours of the night. I can slow down and give voice to my thoughts. I perch on the edge of my seat, floating in a bubble of light. It is loneliness, but not an uncomfortable one. There is no longer any pressure to do anything other than sit and work. But it’s also a false hope. As the hours pass, the urgency of day begins again clashing with my idling brain. I am practically asleep, but I want to cling on to consciousness. Occasionally, my eyes drift toward the darkened window and wonder about the parties, the drinkers, the vivid adventures lived out only when the sun has gone. But I can’t worry about that too much. There is statistics homework to do.
Two hours pass and I’m already imagining the next day. It will drift, my mind obscured by the fog of the night’s non-excursions. I can see it, hear it too loudly. And suddenly, I am. I’m not in my bedroom, I’m sitting in a crowded lecture hall. My bleary eyes search out the rest of the students sitting around me. How many of them are fighting through confusing weariness? Frankly, I’m too tired to care.
The college experience is as much about what happens at night as what occurs during the day, although they are never represented equally. The bright and glossy brochures arrive in the mail, hinting at nothing. There are classes to go to, but the real work happens afterwards. Even clubs usually meet under the cover of darkness. It is what truly differentiates life at the University of Michigan and all the years before. There are no more parents sleeping upstairs or younger siblings in their prying eyes. The only curfew is the sunrise creeping closer as the hours pass. Only fear prevents you from wandering through the quiet streets. The liberty of becoming an adult, coming to college, is only truly realized at night. Sleepless nights. Peaceful nights. Nights lit with the neon glow of a club’s sign. Nights are without boundaries and without routine, without even the obstruction of time. Outside, the glint of the rounded street lamps is omnipresent. Here and there are sparks of blue. Up above, the stars.