Strolling Through Aldrich Park

College students have a tendency to have “tunnel-vision” and unfortunately, it is very disappointing. This doesn’t apply only to UC Irvine students but is a phenomenon that occurs everywhere.

With the start of week one and week two of spring quarter, one can already hear the hum of the academic drag, the trudging to Starbucks for coffee to ameliorate the effects of late night research papers assigned the first day. Keyboards in the libraries are gummed up with the muck of constant use by unhygienic students. Study rooms are booked at lightning speed. Ring Road is now brimming with seniors itching at graduation and freshmen reeling from the “winter quarter slump.” Yes, everything is back to normal, but not really.

Sitting right in the middle of it all is probably one of UCI’s greatest attributes. Aside from our beautiful observatory and our state of the art recreational gym (which legend has it Kobe Bryant himself peruses), there is another part of campus that everyone seems to take for granted.

The reality is students use this part of campus every day, perhaps multiple times a day, taking it as more convenience than grandeur. It is by no means a subtle part of the campus, encompassing more than half the size of the campus. If you haven’t figured it out, Aldrich Park is the place.

When I say Aldrich Park is utilized as a convenience, I truly mean it. Students cut across the park constantly in an effort to save time and walking distance between classrooms diametrically opposed on ring road. It is rather amusing because when we think of parks and other recreational areas, we think of places of leisure, places where patrons can sit down and take a moment to relax while basking in the sunlight and the light breeze that often visits us here in Southern California. We think of a quiet, calm, even pristine area sometimes punctuated with the laugh of little children running around. We think of jungle gyms and vast expanses of grass where dogs are walked or a game of tag is played. Urban planners have understood the myriad benefits of parks and have cleared many resources to have parks built in cities.

Granted, Aldrich Park isn’t your typical park. It isn’t a wide expanse of green grass with jungle gyms and recreational courts. Honestly, I feel it isn’t even that clean with dead leaves strewn everywhere and random muddy areas which have since changed the color of my shoes. Besides that, the originally planners of UCI and the entire city of Irvine probably knew they were doing future students a great service.

In the three years that I have been on this campus, I haven’t taken a single leisurely moment to just lie down in the grass and contemplate the beauty of life. That is definitely still on my bucket list, as is having a picnic instead of going to class. Like most other students, I use the park for convenience as well, which makes it seem odd that I would write in defense of it.

What most don’t tend to realize is the opportunity they are missing out on by not taking a moment to “smell the roses” (or the other flowers).

Aldrich Park is not only an area for leisure but it encompasses so much more. Amid the hustle and bustle of academia, the park stands in stark contrast, epitomizing the simplicity of life. Today our lives are so full of material goods, goods which have definitely advanced humanity but have also brought vices. We hear that adults desire to be young again, yet in this weird dichotomy children only ever want to grow up. That is the type of society that we are building, one where we tend to overlook the simplicities while multiplying the complications. There is always something that we are always longing for, which we cannot ever seem to grasp.

Aldrich Park is a vacuum in time, a moment in pristine relaxation that beckons towards those who walk through to take a moment and enjoy the beauty of life. Lives are so centered on the progressive, the moving forward, the onward. We keep pushing to advance humanity yet it seems ever so odd that with every iota of knowledge academia provides we still suffer from a lack of true humanity.

Aldrich Park strips life down to its core. It isn’t simply the leisure but the true simplicity of life that we should appreciate living through, realizing how miniscule our lives are in context.

Next time you walk through the park to your next class, take a moment. Realize how little you are. Remind yourself that life is beautiful and that you are a beautiful part of it. Aldrich Park is beckoning out to you to remember that life is simple.

 

David Vu is a fourth-year public health policy major. He can be reached at davidnv@uci.edu.