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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Finding beauty within chaos


The meditation room in the Student Union, which is a great place to escape the chaos of life, is pictured on Monday, Oct. 10, 2022.

I sat in Jerusalem, a bustling city, in the dry, refreshing heat of last summer. This was my annual return back home. 

All around there is traffic, noise and trash. Though my first instinct is always to complain about the noise, the traffic, the smell — and still I do — this was my city. It was my place, and I loved it through its worst because even at its worst, there was still beauty.

I found kittens scurrying for food in the trash. Community and livelihood and friends catching up, holding up the traffic. The noises that kept me up at night contained noises of celebration and joy, the joy of those living in chaos.

The reality is that there is always uncertainty. Times are uncertain and the place is uncertain. 

Jerusalem is a place of uncertainty, and so is UNC's campus. Even while hundreds of students are pushing through the quad, rushing to their next class, there is beauty to be found in this crowd, so find that beauty in the chaos.

Practice acceptance and gratitude

There are multiple things that you could take action to change, but some things are beyond your control. You may be placed in a new environment with new people. Accept this transition and accept that you will face hardships that amount from this. 

Having gratitude follows. 

Practicing gratitude will allow you to have more peace and contentment. There will be times when all you can think about is what you don't have: time, money, energy. But when the only thing you can think about is a 55 percent grade on your history test, you forget about the 98 percent grade that you achieved last week in biology. 

Urging yourself to change a negative mindset leads to having more awareness and contentment. It leads to a study plan, more commitment and acceptance that the history test is finished and cannot be changed. Attempt to write out this gratitude and think of it during situations of chaos. 


As you notice your surroundings, focus on one thing, one interaction, one purpose. 

Find something that stabilizes you not only at that moment, but through your best and worst moments, whether that be a person that you can talk to, a place that you can be yourself or a community that you belong to. 

In Jerusalem, my stability was the Damascus Gate. Seeing the community arising from a beautiful place — children playing through the grass, old friends catching up, youth culturally dancing and singing. 

On campus, my place of stability became the quad, with the Arab Student Organization making me feel at home, and my mother's calls reminding me to take care of myself.

Notice your surroundings and be present

Notice your surroundings — anything and everything. Be observant. 

Noticing small details deters you from any general chaos. When I started walking through Jerusalem without using my phone, I noticed the excitement of business owners and beautiful urban spaces. I noticed a parallel between Jerusalem and UNC when I wandered around campus without using my phone. When I got to campus, I heard the excitement of students and passed by the beautiful leaves changing colors.

Focusing on details allows you to observe the community and its joy. Be mindful of everything you do and the purpose of what you do. 

Do nothing

We have an obsession with productivity and getting things done, from creating to-do lists to finding the fastest route to class. Doing nothing allows you to take time to reflect and think, a rare commodity. Spend time in nature or a secluded place.

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Find beauty in your chemistry class, in your failed test, in the confusion at that moment. 

Find beauty in the fact that you don't know things, in the fact that you're still learning, in the fact that it may take you three hours to complete a 30-minute assignment. 

Changing your mindset allows you to find beauty in your everyday activities.