By Hannah Leidy
As an eager, impressionable first year arriving on the Hill a few weeks ago, I couldn’t wait to partake in the Kenyon tradition of strolling along Middle Path. Anyone who has received any promotional literature from Kenyon would recognize this famed passage the College so skillfully exploits during the autumnal months.
My initial idyllic strolls along Middle Path made me feel like such a “Kenyon student” as my friends and I passed through the Gates of Hell. However, as hours on the Hill eased into days, little discomforts of Middle Path snuck into my lovestruck view.
Middle Path, in all its compelling beauty, is a petri dish for awkward interactions. Someone told me it reminded them of a giant hallway in the action of noticing and acknowledging others.
When walking down Middle Path, there’s a constant internal conflict going on in my mind:
I kinda know that person up there . . . They’re too far away for me to call out to them. Can I wave? Well, then we’d still have an empty 100 yards to go before we pass each other. What would we do during that time? Wave for an eternity? No, that’d look stupid. Maybe I’ll just smile at them instead . . . Oh, hm, what if they can’t see my smile from here . . . No. I can see their face so they should definitely be able to see my smile . . . Oooh! We’re a little closer now, it should be an appropriate time to wave . . . Oh Gosh, they’re not waving or smiling back. They probably hate me, and now I look ridiculous to everyone else here. I’m just going to put my arm down. Oh, wait . . . What’s this? They’re smiling a little —they’re waving! Good! The awkward moment has resolved itself.
“Hi,” they say.
“Hey,” I reply, thrilled that they’ve acknowledged my presence.
Oh wait, what’s this now? They’re still not looking at me.
As these thoughts bounce through my mind, I realize the approaching person is actually addressing the person walking behind me. Oops. And then we pass each other, missing any opportunity for social interaction. In the words of Kurt Vonnegut, “So it goes.”
Make no mistake — I am enamored with Middle Path. Its symbolic role in Kenyon’s existence brims with camaraderie. However, I entered Kenyon imagining that every walk down Middle Path would resemble Josh Radnor’s frolicking in the opening of Liberal Arts (somewhat idealistic, I know) and was slightly confused when I received wary looks from everyone I greeted.
I realize I can be the one to extend some type of friendly greeting when passing someone, but I’d appreciate them taking notice or reciprocating. This isn’t just a small campus, it’s a community, and we’re going to be seeing a lot of each other.
Offering someone at the other end of Middle Path a wave or saying “hello” to someone we don’t know shouldn’t be awkward. So the next time you’re strolling from the Gund Gallery to Ascension Hall, offer that random kid a “hi.” It’ll probably brighten his day a little, and, let’s be honest, it’s nice to be acknowledged.
Hannah Leidy ’18 is undeclared from Elizabeth City, N.C. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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