Once again, no one asked, but I have thoughts to share. My unsolicited advice is to get off William Jewell College’s campus for the day. Go. Leave. I’ll even drive you.
There are certainly perks to going to a small school – the strong student-teacher connections, the opportunity to establish meaningful mentorships, the space for student leadership and the community atmosphere. However, a small, close community can foster a toxic atmosphere of comparison and promote unhealthy competition for achievement. In an environment in which we are all worried about grades, performance levels, test scores and papers, the tension is almost palpable.
Sometimes it can be easy for students who are perpetually over-caffeinated and are running on too few hours of sleep to forget that there is a world that exists off of the Hill.
When I feel overwhelmed and anxious, it can be hard to remind myself, especially when I am physically at school, that my whole identity is not wrapped up in my academics or in my role on campus. While I love the Hill, it can feel like a little bubble removed from the outside world in which my performance is more important than I am.
If this sounds at all familiar, I will tell you what I have to tell myself: go, leave, get off campus. Sometimes I have to physically be off-campus to be reminded that I am more than what I can tangibly produce in an academic setting.
You may feel like you do not have the time – and that is very valid. However, consider going to do your homework somewhere off campus, like a coffee shop or a park if it is a nice day. The drive to Kansas City is a short 30 minutes and there are a plethora of choices for places to go. For coffee shops, I advise you to go to the Filling Station, Vested Coffee, PH Coffee or Made in KC Cafe – I have studied in all of them, and I highly recommend it. If you want to be outside to do your reading, head to Loose Park, Riverfront Park or the front lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
If you decide that you have a couple hours to take away from school and other obligations and you want to have a calming afternoon, I have recommendations. First, go to Mildred’s Coffeehouse in the Crossroads – they have excellent food and coffee and it is always a thoroughly lovely time. Get the tomato basil soup with jalapeno toast, it is divine. Then take a short walk over to Verdant. It is a botanical gift shop, and I feel immediately better about everything as soon as I step inside. Get yourself a plant, because this way you can take a little part of your calm day home with you. Next, if you have time, head over to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. You can reserve free tickets online, and it is a COVID-19-friendly outing.
Perhaps you find a trip to Kansas City a bit daunting and time-consuming, but, let’s face it, you need a break and a little time off of campus. I often want to turn on Netflix for a few hours to turn my brain off, but I inevitably feel just as tired and drained when I am done watching. Taking breaks to go somewhere different and try a new coffee shop is always cathartic for me – I am generally more productive after and my mental state definitely improves.
Next time Jewell starts to feel like a tiny bubble of toxic academia, take your homework and simply run away for a while.