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Winter’s Silence
[ Issue 141 Page 6 ] Monday, November 09, 2015, 07:51:36 Kibum Park International Reporter parkkibs@kaist.ac.kr

The cold slowly approaches. It starts to wrap around us like a silent snake, giving us a mixed feeling of discomfort and fear. No longer come the days of t-shirts and shorts; it’s the time to get out the thick stuff: sweaters, jackets, wind breakers. Layers is the name of the game. I remember when I hated winter. The cold meant I always had to wear at least three times my body thickness in clothes. The slippery roads, the biting chill, and the disappearance of the sun are a recipe for a bad day. It was even worse when I did find warmth. I would rush into the heated building and experience five minutes of euphoria before I realize I wore too much and now the heat is suffocating me. Winter isn’t kind. It reminds us that nothing lasts forever. We look back at the summer sun and long for its embracing warmth while we shiver.

But recently, my attitude to all the cold and darkness changed. I started to see the winter less as a hindrance and more as a reprieve. Korea’s winters are harsh, there’s no doubt about it. Thick snow and negative double digit temperatures brings frostbite to the unprepared, but there’s something that winter brings that you can’t find anytime else: silence.

We really don’t live quiet lives. Midterms are approaching closer and closer and we can’t help but panic. Scrounging every note and practice exam, we just never feel done and always try so hard to get every single point possible on that exam. Why? Because we need that minimum 3.0 to get that job, that internship, that graduate school. Next thing you know, we repeat the whole cycle in December with finals. We plan ahead weeks, months ahead to make sure we don’t miss a single chance to get ever more ahead by being the busiest we’ve ever been. This happens with our playtime too. We have to go out and meet with our friend out at West Gate. We need to some alcohol in our system to feel relaxed.

It’s October, but I want you to try to get this in your planner somewhere during the winter. Bundle up with your thickest jacket and your fluffiest scarf and just walk around campus when it’s snowing. Preferably not too much snow but not too little. Just the right amount. Enough so that there won’t be many people outside but not too much so that you drown in the snow. Just walk around and don’t think about anything. Just let the silence take you. It’s actually amazing just how quiet it can get, you’ll honestly be quite shocked. I was only able to experience this in Korea as Vancouver featured too many rainy days and people were still outside filling the air with chatter. It was this silence alone that made me appreciate what winter brought, and it can be just what you need when everything is about to explode.

We tend to fill as much space in our schedules because we need to be busy in order to feel accomplished but rarely if ever do we plan for nothing. Just a moment of reprieve. It gives our minds the kind of reboot it needs to reorganize. Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” What I think is missing here is the part when the desk becomes too cluttered. Our plans and our structures fall apart when all the pieces are spread out all over and we waste time and energy trying to align everything back to perfect order. There should be gaps in our schedules, but meaningful gaps. Just a moment to isolate yourself during a cold winter night or in your room with our minds and ears blocked from the noise of our life.

Yes it’s cold. The mornings and nights are making it difficult to get out of the bed and annoying to get out and buy our cup noodles just to stay awake for the day. But aside from that, there will be a moment of grace where you just let your mind go and give yourself a reset to get through the day without a messy headache and it will be thanks to the advent of winter.

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