Some ideas to help you unwind during the break
Read: I know, I know, you’re already reading for courses – or at least you’re supposed to be. But how much of what you’re expected to read is for fun? When’s the last time you stayed up late turning pages? We often forget what it feels like to read for enjoyment in undergrad. So I’ll suggest things: read something stupid. Read something without a complex argument. Instead, maybe find something with a knight, a mystery, a really hot love interest. Reading used to be fun, right? Maybe we need the novel equivalent to Grown Ups 2 – fart jokes, butt scratches, and slapstick.
Walk: It is solved by walking. Whatever “it” is, it’ll almost always be solved. I’m not talking exercise, we’ll get to that. But there’s a sense of clarity when you walk, headphones or no headphones. I’ve found that sitting can be a brain-trap. If I remember right, every essay I’ve ever written (at least the ones that ended up half-decent) were “figured out” while on a walk-break from the laptop. If I only knew why walking made us feel so good I’d tell you. Maybe it’s a nomadic carry over from caveman genes. Whatever the case, go out your door and walk without a plan.
Exercise: It’s old hack. You’ve heard it a million times already. So I’ll try and spin this another way. “Go out and be active” comes off as “I dunno, do something”, there’s little direction. I’ll say this: go out some evening and run until you can’t. Stop, breathe hard. Breathe some more. And then run back. You’ll hate most of it, but the second you’ve caught your breath at home is everything. A rush of “I’ve done something good for myself” followed by “Damn... I feel good”. Pretty good for thinking “I want to die” seconds before. If anything, don’t exercise for the six-pack. Move for your head. You’ll thank you later.
Get lost in Spotify: We’ve covered all the basics I think, now for some fun ones. Most of us have Spotify, yeah? Most of us have got lost in a YouTube hole, yeah? Well do that, but with Spotify. Go to “Discover”, find something that sounds half decent and disappear down the rabbit hole. I’ll warn you, make sure you’ve got the time to spend. Most of us have only done this sort of thing when procrastinating. Your discovery time then is usually spent with the dread of due assignments lurking around. The same beautiful chaos is so incredible with a free conscience.
Performances, Lectures: I know you get the same emails I do. Every second day we’re told about a new lecture series, a new performance on campus, a new event somewhere in these halls. So please don’t delete them along with the pointless emails about Banner and Moodle. I’ve seen some incredible performances here, I’ve heard some awesome lectures outside of class. I don’t even regret the dry ones – even those give me something to learn.
(Good) Netflix: The last point was a hard sell, I know. And this one’s hardly a sell. You’re all using Netflix, yeah? Here’s a few suggestions. First, Maniac. Jonah Hill and Emma Stone star in a miniseries that looks to “fix the mind” in an alternative future. I binged it in one go - not because I wanted to, but because I had to. And this isn’t some Birdbox meme, this one has an ending. Another suggestion: Brigsby Bear. Kyle Mooney plays a man who discovers his whole world is a lie in a beautiful piece on childhood fantasies. No matter what you choose to discover, try not to be like me and everyone else: “Oh...sounds cool... I’ll watch The Office instead tho...”
Arts: Me, like everyone else, I have random moments where I’ll think “I love Bob Ross, why don’t I try actually painting?” But I never do. And so I ask you to do. Even if you doodle, sketch, or scratch something into a desk. Make art, make it pure. Don’t think too hard, don’t focus too much. Just make something with your hands. Even if it sucks, even if you think it’s silly. Get lost in the process. A visiting lecturer gave one of my classes some clay to play with. We lost an hour in what felt like seconds.
Be (in silence): When’s the last time you sat in silence (besides the morning or night in bed)? I’m not talking meditating, I’m not talking a breath exercise. I’m just talking silence. Maybe you cook, maybe you clean, maybe you just look out the window. But in silence? No music? Crazy, I know. But only once you’ve unplugged can you really know the appeal. I’m not preaching, believe me. I’m plugged in too, always. But those minutes or hours of silence now mean more to me than the latest YouTube conspiracy video. I trust you’ll find love for silence too.
Volunteer: Opportunities are everywhere on campus, everywhere in town. Now, you always here of the positive impact volunteer work has on our community. This much is not news. But I’d like to point out something a little different: don’t you sleep a little better knowing you’ve done good. Going to class, going through the motions of the day-to-day, doing the things you’re expected to do, all this is standard. But no one expects your volunteered time. Volunteering is exceptional, the act of doing good. It’s a good stretch, cracking all your back and you announce “right, that’s what I’m meant to do”.
Stare: Much of what I’ve said has been proactive. Most of it is “doing”. This one’s a bit lazy, but most important. We had a sunset in late January. It was incredible. If/when we get one in February, stare at the sky. Sunsets are cliché? Don’t be so joyless. Don’t take a picture, don’t tell your friends, don’t say a word. Just stare. This is unplugging, being in silence, going for a walk, getting lost, and breathing all at once. Maybe not even a sunset. Just something beyond you, something beautiful. Maybe just a high mark written in red pen, maybe just a well-baked biscuit.