As I sit down on my bed, I receive a non-committal text from my friend Maya saying that she might drop by my dorm later that night. Not that I would say it to her face, or to her phone I guess, but I’d rather she not come. I’m stuck in the doldrums and I don’t feel like summoning the energy to pull myself out of them. I’d rather that Disney+ pull me out. I guarantee that The Mandalorian would do so more gently than Maya. I grab a granola bar, get under the blankets, and open up my laptop. I’m feeling more than a little anxious. I have a week’s worth of homework to do, and a paper to write for Professor Adorno. My train of thought is chuffing down an unhappy track.
It’s 9:30 PM. I’m on my third episode of The Mandalorian, trying to take my mind off homework for a while, when out of the blue someone slams on my window with terrific enthusiasm. I suddenly remember Maya’s text about visiting me that night. A moment later I hear what sounds like a mob banging on my door. Thoroughly annoyed and ready to give Maya a piece of my mind, I march to the door and throw it open.
Yes, Maya is there. Yes, Maya is dropping by like she said she would. But Maya has brought with her five other people who now enter my dorm room and wander about like visitors touring a museum.
“Maya, what—? Oh, hey Joey. Maya, why did you…? Nico, could you please be careful with that? Hi Milo, yeah, just don’t spill any, please. Maya, I thought you said – “
“Hey Helen!” Catherine emerges from the group. “Can I have a Pop Tart?”
“What? Oh yeah, yeah of course.” I give Catherine the Pop Tart before getting Maya’s attention. “What’s going on?”
Even though she can hear the note of annoyance in my voice, Maya refuses to answer my question until I put on my shoes.
“We’re all going out to McDonald’s,” Maya finally replies as I tie up my laces, “and we’re taking you with us.” The second part of her sentence is delivered as a fact rather than a suggestion.
“But…” I look longingly over at my dimming laptop screen, which is about to shut itself off. “I’ve got to…” I trail off. I can’t say I’m doing homework; The Mandalorian is still on my laptop for the world to see. But I’m just not in the mood to go out. I’m still in the doldrums.
“Oh come on, stop being such a lump on a log.” Maya begins pushing me out the door.
I hastily grab my room key, Joey puts the spyglass he was fiddling with back on my desk, Catherine happily finishes eating my last Pop Tart, and Milo shuts the door behind us as the parade marches to the parking lot.
Adorno’s paper, which had been my biggest source of anxiety, gets dumped for a more pressing concern, as Nico announces that all seven of us are riding in a car designed to seat five. I’m a big fan of personal space and try shooting down this plan.
“Guys, I’m not sure if we should…”
“I’ve got shotgun!” Nico jumps into the front seat as Maya starts up her Honda. The rest of the gang piles into the backseat.
The last thing I want to do is to squish into this sardine can.
“Helen, are you getting in?” Lucy looks at me encouragingly from over Milo’s knee. “You can get in on the right side, there’s some room here!” She wiggles her foot an inch to the left in a valiant effort to create more space for me.
Behind me is the road leading back to my dorm and The Mandalorian. In front of me is a carful of my friends, all happy to see me and wanting to cheer me up. My decision is made.
Treading on Catherine’s feet in the process, I sit down next to Lucy. Everyone whoops excitedly, Joey launches into a funny story, and Maya peels out for McDonald’s. In that moment, I’m the happiest person on campus.
During my time at college, I’ve learned that the presence of community is not to be ignored or taken for granted. It’s tempting to push people away when you’re stressed, or to cling to the mentality that you don’t need support and are able to power through rough patches on your own. But when you’re at your lowest is when you need your community the most. While the ride to McDonald’s didn’t win any awards for comfort, it provided me with the encouragement I didn’t even realize I needed. The time spent with my friends made it easier to face my responsibilities. As Catholics, we understand that ‘it is not good for man to be alone’. The Mandalorian is an awesome show, but that’s not what will drag me out of my dorm to buy ice cream at 10:00 PM. When you’re feeling low, don’t close the door to your community. It won’t do you any good anyway. They’ll just bang on your window instead.
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