Something that struck me from my very first visit to the College of William and Mary was the stunning scenery that seemed to surround the campus on all sides. Being from New York, the College’s beautiful, historic brick buildings and pathways fit neatly into my image of what a “southern school” would look like.
The thing that really struck me, however, was just how woodsy the campus seemed to me. It was like a little slice of the temperate forests of my northeastern home managed to sneak down with me.
I had always embraced the wilderness back in New York, exploring new trails whenever I had the chance, and I looked forward to the same sense of adventure and awe at the College.
To my surprise, when I arrived here for orientation I discovered another distinctive feature of New York had followed me here: the constant, obnoxious hum and sight of construction.
Everywhere I seemed to look, inorganic fences blocked the trails and pathways that I thought would be all available to me in my new home.
I was peeved, but mostly unperturbed, until one night I decided to embark on a late-night journey from Yates Hall to Swem, only to discover my beloved wooded shortcut had been blocked off, for reasons beyond my comprehension.
The extra few minutes needed to walk to Swem nearly tanked my night; the fragile motivation of a student voluntarily going out of his way to do work needs as little a barrier as possible, and I fear my experience has been replicated by other students across campus who simply did not need any further inconvenience.
What I failed to realize in all my fury was that the lack of my normal route was only opening my eyes to a greater understanding of what this campus has to offer. Too often when running in the wilderness back home, I would default to running the same path, never venturing past the confines of my favorite trail.
With the many trail closings, I’ve been forced to find different, creative ways to get to the places I need to get to. The trail closings aren’t limiting my options: they’re only opening my eyes to a much greater world here at the College, places I would have never discovered without the help of a barrier.
Walking home after a full month on campus this Tuesday, my hallmates and I noticed a young gentleman walking behind us, eyes glued to his phone and headphones plugged in. As we walked straight, we noticed he had taken a turn toward an area fully blocked off by a fence.
We all stopped and watched with anticipation, as the young man fulfilled the hopes of our anticipation: he walked straight into the gated off area, confused out of his mind.
We waved to him, and together we laughed. Let’s allow these path closings give us the same experience that they gave this young man: what might seem to be a barrier at first gives way to the joy of new experience and connection that would have never occurred if they weren’t blocked off.
Let these temporary barriers serve as a testament to how we continue living our lives at the College, not letting a closed pathway serve as anything less than an opportunity to go out and discover something new.
Email Anthony Madalone at firstname.lastname@example.org.