Hello, everyone, and welcome back to What’s Cooking with Callie! For this week’s article, I must ask you—Mississippi School of the Arts student and cool person—a question: are you missing out on an MSA opportunity? Keep reading to find out!
Located on the first floor of the Student Life Center, the Phoenix—otherwise known as the cafeteria—not only serves three meals a day but serves as a place of connection. Here, some club leaders host meetings, fun campus events welcome students, and friends watch movies together. Although the second floor of the SLC has video games and couches, no other floor holds so much conversation. The Phoenix is a place of warmth and, above all else, community.
Of course, this is not a guaranteed truth. Sometimes you may eat alone, your entire friend group attending a club meeting. Other times you will cover your ears when non-vocals sing “Happy Birthday” out of tune, or you will eat on the outdoor patio because you simply can not deal with noise or people in general. There will come a day only one person attends your club and a day you lose bingo. The cafeteria will serve hamburgers, but you ate Burger King yesterday…gasp. In brief, the Phoenix is not a magical place everyone is automatically entitled to.
However, the room does indeed possess a magic of sorts. Upon first entry, incoming juniors marvel at the piano, the seating arrangements (wow, booths!), and the ceiling tiles painted by visual seniors. The room is bright—sunlight pouring in through the large windows and glass doors—and near two pool tables. It is no ordinary cafeteria.
Why I Love the Phoenix
When five o’clock hit my junior year, a line of hungry students would build for what seemed like miles at the cafeteria entrance. But the line meant nothing because the school day had ended, and food and conversation awaited everyone. You would pick out your friend or friend group and set down your tray, a smile crossing your face. And the room would fill with such warmth and joy as the sun set and homework temporarily lay out of sight. My junior year, I remember the crowded booths and tables bursting with laughter. I remember random students jamming out on the piano or arguing if water was wet. I remember playing my flute at an ensemble meeting as juniors and seniors laughed raucously while playing Monopoly. And I remember witnessing my first coffee house, ever.
My senior year, the lines are not as long. Tables are more separated according to social distancing guidelines. The cafeteria is quieter, filled with different students than before. The piano is quiet, and the ceiling tiles are bittersweet—you know who painted them…they were once your friends, roommates, or neighbors in math class. Do not be mistaken, the Phoenix continues to offer stellar meals that serve as the backdrop to memories, but COVID-19 has dissolved a bit of the room’s joy.
How DO We Regain Joy in a Pandemic?
You, as an MSA student, auditioned to be here! Therefore, take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Set down that cup of Ramen and go make memories! Why would you settle for a microwavable meal when you have a cafeteria cooking for you? The pandemic has robbed people of milestones, holidays, and loved ones, so do not let it rob you of your two-year MSA experience. Stand in line, look for your friends, laugh over food that tastes surprisingly good. Play the piano (after sanitizing it and your hands, please!) and attend club meetings! Choose a warm meal with friendarinos instead of your lonely dorm room.
Define your ideal MSA experience and seek it out! Do not refuse it or wait for it to find you. Live it! Experience it! Never settle.
Be present with your friends; enjoy their presence. Be there in every moment—soak it all in. Because one day you will only have memories; you will wish you would have tried the lasagna or talked to that person with magenta hair or hugged your friends more.
And if you see someone sitting alone, ask if it is by choice or not. Please step outside of your friend group from time to time to establish connection with your campus community. Learn who your classmates are; turn strangers into acquaintances. Fill the Phoenix with life because, as a senior, I so dreadfully miss the cacophony of people enjoying each other’s company.
So, ask yourself…are you missing out on an MSA opportunity?
I will be on campus next week, so look forward to some killer content!
Until then, please tell your friends how much they mean to you. Share a meal, a walk, a conversation. And you are alive on this earth, so know how much you matter and how glorious the sun rises and sets even with us being too busy to care.