I woke up one Sunday morning in the middle of the semester with a mountain of reading to do, so I hiked over to the tranquil waters of my college’s library and set up camp. After a few minutes, I heard something akin to the chopping of wood—someone was eating an apple. Then a few squabbling birds—music coming from someone’s headphones. Suddenly, gusts of wind blew papers across my desk. But wait, no, it was just the air-conditioner turning on and off. Why was every distraction so amplified? Frustration taking over, I desperately needed to find my quiet place.
A quiet place is equal parts physical location and mental equilibrium. The library and I have a Jekyll and Hyde-like relationship. Sometimes the building feels like a best friend who I can confide anything to, and other times we stop talking altogether. But it’s not you, library, it’s me. I’m the problem. Sometimes I just need a new place to study.
The Right Spot
Seeking somewhere else to do my reading, I packed up and left the library that Sunday. While meandering across campus, I thought about the other places I could try. There was the other on-campus library, or I could go to the dining hall to eat breakfast and read. I also considered just going back to sleep (no, no, no).
Eventually, I remembered the academic buildings that surrounded me. Would any of them be open on a Sunday? Which building would be quiet? My first choice proved to be the only one I would have to make. I walked into my favorite building and searched for a place to settle down. Just like I’d imagined, there was empty classroom after empty classroom. Not knowing if I was allowed, at first I was hesitant to claim a room as my own, but I decided it was worth a shot-I pay to use these rooms after all. I sat and read for hours, and thankfully no one came in to bother me.
The Right Mindset
Trying to find my quiet place is also hugely mental. It’s like an athlete drowning out the noises of the crowd—a baseball player stands in the batter’s box and blocks out the roar of thousands because he needs to focus solely on the next pitch. I need to be able to read while someone is eating an apple or listening to music a little too loud through cheap headphones. Having complete silence at all times is impossible, and I’m not always going to be lucky enough to find a vacant classroom. If I do go to the library to read, I have to be able to live with the minor noises and distractions.
A major part of finding your quiet place is learning to mitigate these distractions. I get my best work done when I shut off my phone and leave my laptop in my backpack. This forces me to stop thinking about text messages, phone calls and Twitter and eliminates the temptation to go down the Internet rabbit hole; I avoid the inevitable slide into checking last night’s major league baseball scores or reading an interesting article.
Though location certainly has an effect, I do my best work when I take myself off the grid and completely focus on the task at hand. Yeah, it will always bother me when the sound of someone munching on an overfilled taco pulls me out of study mode, but I have to learn to get past such interruptions. When all else fails, I stand up, take a five minute walk, clear my head and get back on track to finding my quiet place.