And there you have it. In just seven blissful days, spring break has come and gone, and the second half of spring semester is barreling toward us all like a freight train. Yet I find myself feeling, dare I say it, almost…zen? I know what you’re thinking. If you were asked to describe JHU_Allison in fifty words, “zen” wouldn’t crack the top one hundred. Perhaps the better phrasing would be to say I’m feeling much more zen that I thought I would. It’s Secret Week, for Pete’s sake; I expected to be in a fetal position by Tuesday, but I am, remarkably, still relatively intact. And I’m fairly sure I know what’s responsible: I took a break.
When I say I took a break, I want to be perfectly clear: I break’d hard. My lovely friends and I spent the week in a beach house on North Carolina’s very own Emerald Isle. Going into Spring Break, I had all of these grand plans regarding what I would accomplish with my downtime: homework assignments, required reading, Secret Week shopping, line memorization. I had a whole to-do list.
And I did absolutely none of it. I can say with total and complete certainty that I did not take part in a single productive activity on my vacation. Sure, I sang my Addams Family songs in the shower and valiantly brought Middlemarch with me to the beach for the first couple of days. I tossed some APhi swag into my Amazon cart when I felt the urge. But besides that? Nada.
It was unexpectedly glorious. Instead of burying myself in school and work, I detached completely. My friends and I laid on the beach for hours every beautiful day, listening to the waves and soaking up whatever sun we could. We ran around in the ocean, collected seashells, watched the sun set over the tip of the island. On rainy days, we stayed in bed until noon, put on our favorite movies, and went on more trips to get ice cream than we could count. The neurotic, type-A part of me almost panicked to watch the days go by without anything tangible to show for them, but the zen half knew better. It was this absolute detachedness from anything “real life” that made my spring break the awesome, rejuvenating force that it became. And although it was probably an inefficient way to spend my time, I’m a thousand percent positive that I’m better off for it.
Why share this with you? Because this week of bliss has allowed me to realize that the breaks I’ve been taking to get through the stress and pressures of life at Hopkins haven’t really been breaks. Those thirty-minute catnaps or late-night runs to Charmar for comfort food? Those aren’t true breaks; they’re more like, for lack of a better (or real) term, “brain rests.” We need and deserve more than those meager helpings of de-stressing. To actually get that refreshed, peaceful feeling, I’ve found you need a substantial chunk of time, with no alarms or constant phone/time checking. Clear away any and all reminders of future stress, turn the clock around, and devote all of your attention to your favorite movie or favorite album. Doodle, sing, write down everything you’re thinking, sketch the first thing you see. Take a walk around campus, and challenge yourself with every step to only think about what you’re seeing or feeling in that exact moment. If being with other people relaxes the heck out of you, get off campus for the day with your friends – explore every exhibit at the Aquarium and Science Center, or try a restaurant you’ve never been to or heard of.
I know I’m getting dangerously close to sounding like a cheesy self-help book. And if you’re not down to find your zen using the JHU_Allison break method, I totally understand. Regardless, the key to actually reaping the benefits of a break is to make that break worth your while. Treat yourself to some good, old-fashioned downtime. “Future you” will thank you for it.