To Spite the Weather
At Episcopal High School, exams often fall on days of extreme weather.
This is classic Virginia. The mornings call for overcast skies and heavy rain, and by noon, students and teachers alike race for safety from the blistering heat. Sometimes, however, we’re lucky. Sometimes the heat lasts all day, and nobody is left stranded in the confusion of what to wear.
So, May of 2018. The senior class has deserted the campus for their “externships” as the rest of us trudge through the muck that is Exam Week. TableTalk is hosting its last event of the year — CampusCouches — between testing blocks. And, of course, the ground is sizzling with the heat that has been brewing since the sky broke dawn. Doughnuts from Dunkin have been abandoned in boxes atop the leather couches we’ve pulled out in front of the library; pastries can’t motivate even the toughest of students to join the conversation. Our volunteer facilitators are forced to stand and shift back and forth on tired feet without apparent reason — every passerby has continued on in search of air conditioning — because sitting down in this weather sounds like a death sentence.
I have pants on, though, and I’m Floridian — I can bear a bit of heat. I can be Moses for the moment. I’ve somehow developed a moral obligation to this organization I’ve only recently come to know.
When TableTalk first began hosting events at Episcopal, I steered clear. I often couldn’t attend neither the weekday nor the weekend activities because of either club soccer or incomplete homework or the fact that I hadn’t been alone in hours. And yet, here I was, in the middle of exams, ready to sacrifice myself for a few minutes to global warming so that this little club could further root itself into this institution. I wasn’t even an official member of the team yet.
A couple of other study-fatigued students hiding in the disappearing shade of the buildings began to come to the same realization, and one-by-one, we touched down gingerly on the cushions of the sofas, hissing in solidarity. I could’ve been inside, I could’ve been studying, I could’ve been grabbing another molasses cookie from the Dining Hall — I could’ve been anywhere else. But once the girl on my right huffed out a curse at the intensity of the week, every other thought of things I could be doing instead vanished. Sure, it was hot. But it’ll always be hot, and things will always happen in unfavorable moments. I likely wouldn’t get to sit with this same group of kids again in the coming months. So really, what option did I have that wouldn’t fill me with regret?
When I was younger, I didn’t understand calendars. I thought that the years were identical, and that every passing 365 days mirrored history. Obviously, that’s not the case. It took me a while to realize that each moment held its own finality; there would never be another 12:18 PM on a Tuesday, May 22, 2018 in the rest of history. I’d never be on this couch again in the same way. So for those few, unique minutes, I sat down with near-strangers to remember what freshman and sophomore year exams were like. I debated whether or not the food in the student center was decent. I recalled events of recent gun violence. For a moment, I wasn’t stuck with my nose deep in notebooks.
Despite the simplicity and casualness of the situation, these few interactions are what I’m drawn back to when I think of TableTalk. It’s just these seemingly forgettable moments with those you see in hallways, in bathrooms, in the Dining Hall. It’s those few laughs in-between chewing donuts. It’s the minutes that are easy to miss.
I’ll admit that it’s not easy for me to sit down with others, but nothing worth doing is ever easy.
I’m more than thrilled for the coming year. I’m thrilled to see new faces, to help organize events that foster relationships that wouldn’t form otherwise, to be a part of an organization that’s changing campus culture with natural communication. I’m thrilled to officially join the conversation. I know personally that it’s easy to be a passerby. But in a highly intense environment, such as high school or university, the break from academic rigor is necessary. TableTalk is offering just that: a natural and comfortable break. For me, a girl overly obsessed with letter grades, every minute spent at a TableTalk event has had far more long-term value than any moment spent alone memorizing a textbook. You can have both. It’s true. I’m proof.