Central Library is a jungle. Not in the stereotypical way of trees and tigers hiding around the corner. The animals are actually the students, and the greenery is the occasional potted plant in a corner. I had my first acquaintance in Central my fall semester, but I only ever gained the courage and proper training to face the challenge again in the Spring. The building looms above you as you make your way to the entrance, almost taunting you to see if you’re up to the challenge. You enter and are immediately suspended into the smells of a library. Old book pages aging, the whoosh of printers hot off the press, and the click of laptop keys create a false sense of comfort. There are varying levels of predators in the library, from the maze-like structure to the super-sonic elevators. On a side note, what is the real speed of those freaking elevators? You’re on floor four and get to floor seven in negative three seconds. But, not even the claustrophobic, super-speed elevators were what deterred me in the fall. It’s the STEM kids that will murder you with their gaze as you pass their library room.
They appear harmless with their stickered water bottles, scattered notebooks, and messy buns, but their weapon is their gaze. There’s no way to reserve library rooms, so you are the mercy of whatever rooms are available when you get to the library. These rooms are prized, because they are quiet, you can spread out, and they have spinny chairs, which is my favorite part. The STEM kids dominate all of these rooms, because they probably get out of bed at 4:00 a.m., tailgate outside before the doors unlock, and rush the jungle seeking their daily shelter. I respect the grind and the fairness of “first come, first serve”, but the looks I receive as I pass by are uncalled for. They stare you down almost daring you to stare back, questioning their authority. They think the glass is one-sided or something, because they will watch your movements as you pass their territory. In the beginning I was scared, looked down, and shuffled quickly away, yet something changed in me.
I don’t know if the preservatives in the constant onslaught of Fresh Mex made me into a fiercer predator, but now I stare the STEM kids right back down. I look into their eyes, past the dry-erase board full of general chemistry or physics equations, and see into their binary souls of numbers. I hold the gaze and almost dare them to fight me with their TI-84 calculator. I pass by, and even though I am able to contend with the predator, I still fail at finding a room. I eventually settle for a chair or a comical office cubicle. Yet, when the tables turn, and I have the study room while people pass by looking in, I relish in my victory yet empathize with their journey.
Central Library is no longer scary with its numerous floors, potentially NASCAR-eligible elevator speeds, and STEM kids. At the end of the day, I empathize with the STEM kids that produce blood, sweat, and tears for their work. Y’all work hard without any breaks. If any of y’all are reading this, take a deep breath and don’t stress because it’ll be better for you in the long run. Or, let me say this in a way you might like. Raised cortisol levels suppress your immune system by activating your sympathetic nervous system, which puts you at a higher risk of sickness, damaging neurons in your hippocampus, and generally makes you unhappy. Enjoy the battles of the jungle, but remember to enjoy the fruits that hang among the trees.