Between classes, Orientation week, and illness, I hadn’t gotten a chance to hang out with my best friend Julie for weeks. Our lunch dates kept getting postponed, so I was pleasantly surprised when I mentioned going to the $5 Hart House lunch yesterday and her schedule lined up.
We met outside the Great Hall just after 1 p.m., and although the lunch was set to end at 2 p.m., there was still a large line-up of students and plenty of food. Both of us took the vegetarian option — Greek salad, pita, rice, and a wonderful main of baked eggplant and lentils — although the lemon-oregano chicken sounded delicious as well. The three-course meal felt so refreshing, particularly since healthy inexpensive food is so difficult to find on campus. It left me full, but not at all bloated or uncomfortable as food truck lunches usually do.
The Hart House $5 lunches take place at the end of every month and this year are organized around different health themes. This one’s was Community Engagement and Getting Involved, meaning that there were several resources at the event, which offered tips and opened discussion on community building, without being the slightest bit intrusive.
It felt appropriate to be attending the lunch with Julie, whom I’ve grown a lot closer with through all our shared co-curriculars throughout university. Reconnecting with her after such a busy month was exactly the community-building time I needed. Each year, I am caught off guard by how stressful September is. Although most assignments are still a distance away, I find the transition period difficult to navigate no matter what year I’m in. Taking time away from my tightly-packed Google calendar and to-do list felt as refreshing as the healthy meal.
Although I managed to whisk a friend along with me last-minute, many students went alone. Cute “conversation starters” pamphlets were placed on the tables to act as icebreakers for those interested. Also available were recipe cards for the meal we ate, pens — which I was delighted to find, having just lost my last one –, and fun coupons to give to a friend, redeemable for “accompanying you to any U of T event.”
Although the lunch officially ended at 2 p.m., Julie and I stayed behind chatting long after students had filed out. In the end, we were the last ones to leave the hall, dashing back to our work and academic commitments. However, getting the chance to forget work for two hours and hang out with a friend reminded me of how important keeping up connections is to my happiness. Whether it’s joining a new club, Skyping a high school friend, or going out on a lunch date, dedicating time to community building always makes my week brighter, regardless of how busy my calendar looks.