Smile Politely

10 ways to lose your C-U virginity, part 5: Taking a rest from losing it

Sometimes, losing it means kicking back and throwing on the Barry White. 

Check out the most recent Virginity here.

Labor Day, as those of us tied to the academic-year calendar are powerfully aware, is the ultimate tease. Just when we’ve resigned ourselves to short sleep cycles interrupted by stress dreams, perpetually dirty laundry, and general social alienation, Labor Day lures us once again into brief union with our most enduring crush: rest. For one short week at the beginning of September, we can still believe that our schedules are not only doable, but sane. We can believe that this is the semester we will not have to choose between completing long-term projects and maintaining relationships with earthlings other than our cats.

This Monday is not Labor Day, and, staring gloomily at this week’s sprawling, angry shape across my calendar, a shape that ripples with greedy appointments and sadistic deadlines, I’ve retreated once again into fantasies about rest (who’s always been, like that girl who didn’t give a fuck about chewing bubble gum with her mouth open and that guy who had dreads in high school, just a bit too cool for me). These fantasies have involved two scenes: 

— I’m 8, in one of the first music lessons of my life. I didn’t know then that music would consume me for the next fourteen years, taking up most of my evenings and weekends while other people my age were drinking and having sex. I didn’t know then that my body was invisibly aligning itself to my instrument, as we do to the bodies of our lovers. I’m listening to my first music teacher, a saxophonist who smoked between lessons and gazed sullenly into the distance as I raced through lines of quarter notes. He stops me and says impatiently, “I’m not hearing the rests. The music isn’t the same without them. You have to play the rests, too.”

— I’m 26, and I’ve recently moved to Champaign-Urbana for graduate school. I’m in my office, and I’ve just recorded that semester’s daily schedule into my calendar. I lean back, overwhelmed for a moment. Then, automaton-like, I reach for a mason jar and scrawl on its lid, “Rest.” I fill it with scraps of paper, each prescribing an antidote for an especially stressful moment: “Eat chocolate.” “Go for a bike ride.” “Look at pictures of shoes.” When it seems sufficiently full, I set it on top of my desk organizer and enjoy the momentary satisfaction of having completed a task. I don’t see this jar again until months later, when I dig it out from under mounds of underlined papers and desperate to-do lists.

These scenes remind me that losing my own C-U virginity was not gentle in any way. And, while you may be the kind who revels in rug-burn the next day, you may instead be the kind who wants your encounters with C-U to be milder, tenderer. If that is the case, dear reader, I offer, for your consideration, Eight Ways to Rest in C-U. Because as good musicians, city-dwellers, and lovers know, rest enhances our anticipation. It keeps us coming back for more.

1. Do it on a bench. One of the first things I learned about these twin cities is that there are a million parks here, and most of them and well-tended, quiet, and perfect for finding an isolated bench and a few moments to commune with nature. My personal favorites are the benches along the trails at Meadowbrook Park. If you’re still and attuned enough, I can almost promise you’ll find that those people who hate on the Midwest for its lack of natural beauty have no eye for subtly and detail.

2. Do it in a library. C-U boasts many lovely libraries, both on and off campus. On campus, the Grainger Engineering Library is serene, the Main Library’s Reading Room is elegant, and even the Mathematics Library has a quirky and earnest appeal. But if you’ve seen enough athletic shorts and messy buns to last you for the day, head to the Champaign Public Library for some quiet reading.

3. Do it in a coffee shop. As we’ve recently detailed, there’s much to love about Café Zojo. One of the things I love about it is that it exudes a deep sense of peace, even as it doles out some of the tastiest coffee around. This is the place to go if you want the community of a coffee shop without the frenetic buzz of over-caffeinated fingers slapping laptops.

4. Do it old school. There are a number of cool, under-the-radar second-hand and junk stores around here that allow you to cocoon yourself in nostalgia and forget about the pressures of the present. My personal favorite is, without a doubt, Le Shoppe. This is the place to go for patient browsing, friendly atmosphere, and easy-to-fall-in-love-with finds. Image source: Le Shoppe’s Facebook

5. Do it tipsy. C-U’s bar scene is obviously quite good, and those who like to put one down know it. This is a good thing, but it also makes finding a bar that lets you truly get away from it all a bit more difficult. In my view, Clark Bar is sufficiently off the beaten path to allow for relative calm, low odds of running into someone you know, and prime people-watching.

6. Do it in the road. It’s not hard to find a nice route for a rejuvenating walk around here. Brick streets and well-tended yards are pretty easy to come by. The most calming paths, though, are probably just a bit south of downtown Champaign. Try taking a constitutional along Elm, Healey, John, or Prairie.

7. Do it with food. Being around food is calming, but especially so if you can just make eyes at it without the pressure of deciding how to turn it into an actual dish. This is a big reason why I like browsing the community gardens at Meadowbrook, and it’s also why I like stopping by Sun Singer to check out their cheeses, deli, and wines. If you avoid a meal rush, you can also do some savoring in relative peace.

8. Do it with your eyes closed. Public napping is often more satisfying that napping in private, I think in part because our sense of restfulness is deepened through its contrast with whatever other activities are happening around us. For this reason, I suggest grabbing a nap on a blanket at the Arboretum. If you choose a time and spot well, you’ll be in earshot of an intramural sports game, but you’ll also have the delicious peace that comes with green everywhere you look.

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