My Happy Place

“Like an evil twin or a twisted pair, happy places can have an ugly underside.”

As a college student, we all inevitable have to deal with hours upon hours of homework. Whether you actually complete this work or not is another issue, but we are all faced with the decision and time commitment involved with being a student. At Mary Washington, I’ve tried finding my focus in my room, the library, the convergence center, etc, but I always find myself distracted by the impounding silence or the general sense of “school” around me. Sophomore year when I finally had my car on campus I decided to drive to one of the local coffee shops to relax (aka do homework, but I was trying to convince myself otherwise). So, I went downtown to Hyperion Espresso, a popular place among Mary Wash students, and if you’re ever in the Fredericksburg area definitely go. The overall atmosphere is beautiful and unique, different from corporate stores like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. So I bought a vanilla latte and was able to have it “for here” in a cute little mug (saving the environment!), and I settled down into a corner table by the window. From this table you could see all the townies and dogs walking by serving as a perfect distraction from homework. I finally decided too that I should be a productive student and make a dent in my hours of homework. A couple of hours later, I was done! I had finished writing a paper and completed a short reading for another class. With nothing left before me to do, I started to reflect. I had been so productive and efficient in the coffee shop, but why? I suddenly realized: the overall atmosphere of people getting together, being away from campus, and the general smell of fresh coffee brewing 24/7 created a completely different space away from campus that for some reason fueled my energy! THIS WAS MY HAPPY PLACE! It was relaxing and interesting, yet not so much so that I never completed anything. I suddenly found myself driving to coffee shops every other day just to do my homework, and I got things done super efficiently and quicker than before because I wasn’t distracted.

Unfortunately though, like all happy places, they can have an ugly underside. Coffee shops are incredible places for myself to complete work and relax from my day but they do have their distractions and bad qualities. With some assignments, silence is a must. I’ve grown out of this and can work in the soft hum of background music combined with conversation around me. However, there’s always that ONE person who talks several volumes notches higher than the rest of the human populating, making their conversation easily heard from 50 feet away. I’m not saying I don’t care about your Grandma’s 89th birthday party or the fact that you “can’t believe she/he could do that to you and your bff,” but really I don’t care. It makes it hard to concentrate on a paper or reading when all I hear is your gossip and complaints. A lot of times, coffee shops also have windows to allow in lots of natural sunlight. Great idea, and I love it. But, I don’t love it when it’s perfectly timed at sunset and the brightest ray of sun God created shines on my laptop screen and burns my eyes. Or when you walk into the coffee shop and it’s so populated that you can’t even find a place to sit. I appreciate that a majority of our population also love to spend their time in coffee shops, but someone save a seat for me!

Anyways, to this day I still go to Starbucks or Hyperion or Blackstone to do my homework assignments. And like anything I take the good with the bad. Despite the loud conversations or lack of seating, I still get a majority of my assignments done efficiently and well at coffee shops, because the overall atmosphere just fuels my brain. Thankful that I discovered coffee shops as one of my happy places, and I don’t doubt that they will continue to be so for many years.

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