An opinion piece I wrote for the Round Table, Beloit’s newspaper, in honor of Valentine’s Day. And thanks to National geographic for my favorite squirrel picture of all time.
Last semester I lived in a vortex of critical analysis, response papers, meetings I doodled through, screeching weekends of insanity. I lived by my a motto my mom gave me: sleep when you’re dead. I ran a half marathon, cooked in a co-op, gave a symposium, and generally went flying around campus at the speed of light. When I had time to dream, I thought of escaping to live in the woods of New England under a pile of good novels. I was taking 3.5 credits, and busy as I’d ever been, but one of Beloit’s greatest buzzwords weighed me down–critical thinking. By the time winter break had arrived, I was burnt to an academic cinder.
I spent break reading delicious books of poetry very slowly. I ate meals that I cooked myself while staring into a perfect space of air between the kitchen window and the pile of clean dishes in the sink. I bought a mandolin and then tried to teach myself how to draw. My friend Mariah and I built a gingerbread house piece by piece over the course of a week with twenty types of ribbon candy. I call this period of my life the time of indulgences.
Back at Beloit for Round Two, I’ve injected this semester with a heavy dose of humility. I’m giving myself the space around the things I love to truly appreciate them. Although it’s slightly painful, I can delete emails (AKA comittment traps) from my inbox and limit my activities to the things I’m invested in. I have time for spontaneous sledding adventures and can drink coffee for the taste instead of the kick.
Science people have facts to back up the practice of doing less. Neurologists have found that boredom can boost creativity. Being bored is a rest for your brain that lets you bounce back to tasks with more focused energy. It also frees up space for you to take up new hobbies (hence my mandolin-plucking, drawing, and gingerbread baking). Lastly, the practice of doing nothing can gives you time to appreciate the random things around you that don’t get much cred. I’m talking nature, random smells, sights, sounds that we pass by on our way to class.
Yesterday I was leaving Godfrey on my way to lunch and I heard a squeaking noise above me. I looked up and searched the oak treeline until I found the squeak’s origins. It belted out from the lungs of a tiny squirrel perched at the end of a branch. Maybe it was a cry for help or maybe it was just really excited to be the highest creature around. Then I pointed out the squirrel to my friend Max who was walking to class and he chuckled at the whole thing and kept going. It seems insignificant, but that five minute interval of squirrel appreciation forced me to slow down and appreciate things outside the line of my usual self-interested internal monolog.
So in the spirit of the holiday of love, give yourself the time to go love someone or something. Because let’s face it, we can sleep when we’re dead.