It’s 2 a.m. on a Friday night. The streets are desolate. The faint, distant roar of “Pump It Up” in the distance slowly fades away, only to open up a lonely silence. You are alone with your thoughts. Your mind races from one topic to the next, trying to make sense of the night you just had. Your voice is gone and your legs are tired. You want to sit down and relax but you can’t: you have to take the bus back to North Campus. You walk for what seems like miles and what feels like a millennium. Suddenly, in the distance, a beckoning light calls you. It’s the CCTC, and you’re greeted by a group of people in the same position as you. You found that at that moment you were a bit excited to see people you had never met. You find, at 2 a.m. on a Friday night at a bus stop, a community.
“Yeah, I live on North” is a phrase that is often met with disdain, distaste, mockery or even just straight pity. “Oh, you have to take the bus?” “Oh man, how early do you have to wake up in the morning?” “Wow, I’m so glad I live on Central Campus.” These are all common responses students use to respond to the North Campus assignment. While most people easily find themselves being herded into this anti-North mindset, I was convinced that there must be something amazing and unique about North Campus, and something that the 20% of the students dorming on North Campus could latch onto. I became emboldened, energized and motivated to find this “something.” Little did I know that I would find it at the CCTC.
The “Vomit Comet” is the slang term many students have used to denote later buses on weekend nights that go back up to North Campus. The name, noticeably, comes from the sickness, tiredness and nausea that most students bring back with them after a wild night out. Despite its retched nickname, it is on those buses that a University of Michigan student will find something more profound than anything the Philosophy Department could teach you.
As my weary legs sought rest on a Saturday night during Welcome Week, I thought about how much I wanted to go home. I’m usually not one for going out, instead opting for a night that consists of listening to music and hanging out with just a few people instead. However, I found myself overcome by the opportunistic spirit of college and I decided to go against my status quo. With everything done with and my desire to go home stronger than ever, I remembered that my Mcard and housing card were both in a friend’s dorm. On North Campus. I made the pilgrimage to the CCTC with my friend and fell onto a cold bench. All of a sudden, small groups of people piled in and I was sitting with and around at least 20 to 30 other students making their way up to North Campus. The silence turned into a light buzz of conversation, which only picked up as we entered the bus. People who had never met before and who didn’t have any reason or excuse to talk to each other, were. The camaraderie spread like wildfire across the bus, and soon everyone was contributing to the conversation. “That’s what it is,” I thought to myself, “It’s the community.”
Students taking the bus up to North Campus, students trekking through mountains of snow to get to class and students struggling through calculus all have experienced this phenomenon. As human beings and as young adults, it’s easy to focus on how we are different from one another. Diversity is very important, especially concerning growth, progress and the inclusion of unique and underrepresented groups of people. However, it is very easy to get so distracted by what divides us that we forget how similar we are. All it takes is a collective experience to show us that we are similar enough to relate to each other, an experience where a group of people, small or large, can realize that their struggles might be more similar than they think. All of sudden, either consciously or unconsciously, if one realizes that another person also dislikes taking the bus, if they also find calculus hard or if they also dislike how some customers treat them at work, then they realize that they might not be alone in other struggles.
We all face struggles in our lives. We all carry weight with us, some of it is light and some of it is heavy. Sometimes the weight we carry is unseen by other people, either because we feel like we need to keep it to and solve it by ourselves, or because we invalidate our own feelings and experiences. This weight only gets heavier. After a long time, it can feel like we are alone in our struggles and that they are something we will inevitably be crushed under. These moments though, moments of relatability, camaraderie and connection, can make a monumental change. They can destigmatize our own views about the struggles that we face. We realize that if someone also carries the same small weight that we carry, then we are not alone in at least one of our struggles. Knowing this simple fact can give way to new bonds, connections and avenues toward realizing that we do not have to go through our lives alone.
If we as human beings can truly realize that we are not alone in our struggles, small or large, the world could change. This isn’t idealized or utopian speak. Buses, restaurants and calculus are all microcosms of this very phenomenon. Through shared small struggles, larger struggles can be heard and stronger bonds can be formed. This is something that is inherently human to realize: we are uniquely similar and that our individual identity is not invalidated by a larger, group identity but instead bolsters us as individuals.
While the “Vomit Comet” and North Campus have their respective downsides, only in those places and in other places of collective struggle will you find the most human interaction. Only in places where struggle is felt and in turn, heard, will you find the growth and progress that moves us forward as a society. So, next time you feel like throwing up on the bus back up to North because of how many times you’ve heard “Pump It Up” in one night, listen to the conversations around you. Maybe even join in. You could change someone’s life. Or they could change yours.
Zhane Yamin is an Opinion Columnist and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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