Whenever I’m feeling down, I walk to the Lawn.
I walked through the ice and snow from my dorm several times my first year when I started to really feel like I didn’t belong at UVa. I walked there through the pouring rain my second year when I first came out as gay. Just as UVa was feeling like home, I worried that it would no longer accept me. I walked there this year several late nights, often past 2 AM, with a fellow RA on my staff as I worried I wasn’t building the community I wanted in my hall. Every time I’ve felt scared, alone, anxious, depressed, angry, or lost, I’ve walked. Something about seeing the bright lights off of the rotunda like a shining beacon makes me feel calm and hopeful and found all at the same time. The academical village reminds me that even when I feel like I’m not good enough, I was accepted to be here. This public place is my private asylum.
It was last fall, when my second-year friend felt scared and alone as I often did, that I brought him into my space. As he cried and I hugged him on the Lawn, I knew he felt what I always felt there. That feeling of communion was better than any of my walks alone. To me, that’s the responsibility of a lawn resident, to make the lawn your home and then to share that inclusive space with the rest of the University. I would work with fellow lawnies to promote the values and organizations that make UVa great when it feels dark. Then, I’d keep my room open so students can come and share their stories. I would no longer walk to the lawn, I would create the sanctuary that people walk to.
Posted by: Zainab Oni