I have never been one to test the waters. If you ask anyone from my middle school gym class, I was the kid in capture the flag who never risked a toe on the other side of the line, even when my entire team was in jail. Crappy of me, I know, but the fact still stands that I am generally neither the savior nor the experimental type. Yet, for some reason, as I sit down to write this column and simultaneously address the unfortunately empty recesses of my ancient brain, I have decided to experiment just a little.
Now, I am risking a little too much honesty in admitting that there is quite literally nothing in my brain right now. But that is precisely what I want to talk about. In the past year and a month that I have been at Boston College, I have come to experience a state of being that I believe is particular to college students: the Bobbing Orb.
The Bobbing Orb, as I have experienced it, occurs when I am overstimulated with noise, assignments, and social interactions. It is when my brain ceases to be an ordered arrangement of reason, memory, schedule, and responsibility and collapses—rather artfully—into a series of floating tendrils that barely keep me tethered to my basic obligations. For example, a tendril will float by, reminding me of the math worksheet I must complete before midnight, while another will tap the edge of my awareness, signaling that my friend’s birthday is in a few days. Sometimes the tendrils I observe are most unhelpful in moments of crisis. I can be in the middle of an exam, trying to reach in my mind for a particular theory while my mind rather unhelpfully recites back the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song, complete with the full musical score. Where these tendrils originate, I do not know, but they materialize in the ether of my mind’s orblike state.
This sensation has become a way of life for me in the past week. So much so that, whenever my friends inquire after my wellbeing, I respond that I have simply been an orb, bobbing through life. Although that’s gained me several strange looks, I’ve been pleased to find that many of my friends feel the same way, and more significantly, can identify the Bobbing Orb as a constant companion in their college lifestyle.
It is in these recent, rather relieving, conversations that I have come to understand why the Bobbing Orb exists: to remind me to let go of the illusion of control that I have over my mind and its expression. It is, after all, rather difficult to be present with one’s thoughts while in college. As opportunity after opportunity presents itself, it is easy to feel like one tiny foot soldier in a legion of warriors all trying to push themselves to achieve every type of success. And while I enter every school year with a series of resolutions on the type of college student I am going to be and the sort of excellence I am striving for, I cannot impose a regiment so harsh that I forget that my mind is first and foremost a place so tender, soft, precious, and free. I can admit, rather begrudgingly, that this is a lesson I need to be reminded of quite often. As extracurricular activities and academic commitments begin to pile up, I can find myself beating my brain in frustration as to why I cannot generate more completed work, think more critically, or at least be anything other than soup. Yet I can understand that to acknowledge the Bobbing Orb is to accept my inherent humanity and to surrender to the comedy of hearing “Baby Shark” on double speed as I crunch to finish an exam in the last five minutes of class.
Whether or not you have been able to resonate with the Bobbing Orb, I am grateful for the time that you have spent with me today. It has been refreshing for me to have company as I sit on the floor of my mind and watch the tendrils float by. I hope my first (and last) experiment proved itself to be a worthy one. If, even for a second, you found yourself feeling more present with your thoughts while reading this, I would consider it a success.
To my fellow bobbing orbs out there, please know that I completely and wholeheartedly empathize with your present state. I have heard a little rumor, though, that a nap and a warm meal help immensely. 😉