Let’s face it, crying is a thing that happens in grad school. If you’re like me, it happens frequently. Rather than being ashamed, be prepared! The following are the top six places on campus to cry, based on the following criteria:
1.) Privacy, because the public display of grief is stigmatized like little else.
2.) Proximity to tissues, because snots.
3.) Sound reduction, because sometimes you want to let it all out.
4.) Comfort, because you don’t want to be uncomfortable in addition to being sad.
5.) Ambiance, because lighting affects mood.
Disclaimer: This list is crowd-sourced. I haven’t personally cried in all these places, but I trust my peers.
#6. Lucy’s Café
This is actually a terrible place to cry. First of all, you’re totally exposed. There are people everywhere. Most of the surfaces are wood, so there’s an echo factor, which instead of muffling sound, amplifies it. It’s typically peopled with undergrads, some of which could potentially be your students. The only products even resembling tissues are stiff, scratchy napkins which you have to walk across the room to procure. There are soft chairs, but these are almost always inhabited (again by undergrads), and the florescent lights are depressing and ensure that your red eyes and runny nose are on full display. Overall, Lucy’s gets one teardrop.
#5. The trek across campus
The advantage of crying on the walk between buildings is, contrary to what you may think, it offers a degree of privacy. You will pass undergrads, but most of them will be staring at their phones or actively practicing the “Lehigh Look-Away,” which I normally find abhorrent, but it’s great for when I need a good cry between classes. Unless you carry tissues on your person, though, you will be at a loss to rid yourself of mucus. You’ll be out in the open, so everyone who passes will hear your sobs, and you’ll likely be uncomfortable, especially in the winter months. The ambiance could go either way here. If you take night classes, or if it’s overcast, great. Otherwise, not so much. Thanks a lot, sun. All told, the trek across campus gets two teardrops.
#4. Center for Community Engagement
The Center for Community Engagement in Williams Hall is not a bad place to cry. There are sofas (!) so there’s a comfort factor here that cannot be matched. You’ll be out in the open, however, so everyone present will see and hear you, but most of the people who pass through the CCE are sensitive and caring individuals, so you’ll likely get support, maybe even a listening ear. The ceilings are high, so the lighting is not too harsh, and there are tissue boxes everywhere you turn. The CCE is in the basement of Williams, though, which is a bit of a downer. All things considered, the Center for Community Engagement gets three teardrops.
#3. Professor’s office
This one comes up a lot, and most grad students have their preferred professors. I will note, though, that the following does not apply if the professor in whose office you’re crying is the reason you’re crying in the first place. In these cases, gather what dignity you can and get out immediately. Otherwise, there are some advantages. You won’t have privacy. If you are an ugly crier, this is especially difficult because professors’ offices, though bigger than grad students’ offices, are still small, so you’ll have about three feet between you and your professor, giving her or him a bird’s eye of your emotional state. On the other hand, professors, especially tenured ones, have comfortable chairs or, on rare occasions, sofas on which to sit, and most professors keep tissues in their offices—for crying students, I presume. The lighting varies from office to office, so I can’t confidently comment on that here. So much depends on trust in this situation. It could go either way, frankly, but, overall, a sympathetic professor’s office is a safe place to let it out. A professor’s office get four teardrops.
#2. Gender neutral bathrooms in Linderman Library
I haven’t tried this one myself, but it sounds amazing. The gender-neutral bathrooms are single-stall and tucked out of the way (I won’t comment on why I think that is), so you’ll have all the privacy you could ask for. The door will muffle noises so you can really lean into your cry. And you control the ambiance! Turn off the lights and cry in the dark if you so desire. Toilet paper is a passable substitute for tissues, though it can be harsh on your nose if you have sensitive skin. The only real drawback here is the comfort. Crying is bad, but crying while sitting on top of a cold toilet seat? The thought alone makes me want to cry. Besides that, though, this location is practically prefect for a ball session. The gender-neutral bathrooms in Linderman get four and a half stars.
#1. In your car in the parking garage
This is my all-time favorite, and there seems to be consensus across the board that this location is tops for a good cry. First: privacy galore. Even if people pass by, they’re thinking about going to work or going home. They’re not looking at you, trust me. You might not have tissues in your car, but who cares? Wipe your nose on your sleeve if you want. You can change when you get home. Cars are airtight and muffle sound well, so you can just let it all out. I’ve found that cars are great for wail-crying. Cars are also comfortable. Bonus: if you’ve had your car for a while, the seat will be molded to your body, giving a cradling effect. And the garage / car combo provides the prefect ambiance, especially if you’re parked on one of the lower levels or if its dark outside. All told, in your car in the parking garage gets five teardrops.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Add to it if you wish. While you’re at it, maybe ask yourselves these questions: why are grad students crying so much? Why do we feel the need to hide it? And are we getting the support we need to manage the unique pressures we face? Maybe the answers are scary; maybe we don’t want to face them, in which case you can hide in one of the above locations. Or, we can try discussing these questions openly. I think it’s high time we do.