The stereotypical college spring break is filled with exotic beach destinations, an abundance of alcohol, crowds of scantily clad members of both genders, and endless music and parties. As a college kid living in a common culture with and driven by similar biological drives as most most college students, I can get why that kind of 100 miles per hour, drown-out-everything-else kind of escape could be appealing.
My ideal break is a bit different, largely due to how they’ve turned out in the past. For context, I was raised in a very academically competitive neighborhood, and to keep up with the rest, free time = opportunity to get ahead of others. My breaks were usually were filled with STAR, SAT II, SAT, and AP testing prep, completing homework or projects for classes, applications to summer programs and colleges, and various extracurricular activities. As most of my classmates know, this mentality was driven into us from the social narrative of increasingly difficult college admissions, to our heritage, and sometimes, even from ourselves.
The few breaks where none of these commitments dominated my time were spent in family vacations (which never were the do-whatever-you-want-lets-take-our-time ones, but always the lets-squeeze-in-as-many-sights-and-attractions-as-possible ones) or poring over the pages of the Qur’an for hours at a time, reviewing what I had memorized months or sometimes years before.
I don’t regret any of those breaks. I learned a lot from all those hours of studying, and to a certain extent, it did allow me to keep up with the rest of my classmates. I’m glad that I had the learning/growth experiences during those breaks, because I wouldn’t be where I am in life today without them. But were breaks ever relaxing? Rarely.
For me, relaxing is freedom from commitments. It’s not forcing myself to think about what I need to do next, but allowing myself to ponder whatever tickles my fancy. Relaxing is scheduling commitments at my own leisure and having the free time to make spontaneous events happen. Relaxing is working on recalibrating the rhythm of my life by eradicating negative trends I’d observed before the break and establishing positive trends to maintain during and after the break. Relaxing is also just being okay with doing absolutely nothing for a while.
All my life I’ve been told that time is a resource that must be leveraged to maximize benefit. I stand by this creed 99% of the time. I believe that the other 1% should belong to the gaps in which we get to relax in whatever way that suits us. It leaves us feeling happier and more motivated during the 99% of the time when those resulting positive emotions can determine our successes and failures.
What sparked this post is my happy report that this past spring break was the best relaxation I’ve experienced in years. We didn’t go out on vacation, there was no school work to do, there were no events to organize, nothing – just me and whatever I liked, whenever I liked. I engaged in one-on-one conversations with almost every member of my family in a way that would have been impossible on a trip; I slept early and woke up early, just like I’d wanted to do since the beginning of the year; I ran almost every single day, covering more miles in a week than I did in the last six months; I spent quality time with every distinct group of friends; I read for leisure; I improved my web development skills; I often did nothing for hours at a time; and much more.
I couldn’t have asked for a better week. I feel refreshed and ready to take on what Spring Quarter can throw at me. More importantly, let this raise the bar for what breaks should feel like, especially for the kids going through the stressful period of preparing for college admissions. And here’s to many more in the future.
(ps I’ll do my best to post once a week now, usually Sundays/Mondays. Thanks for reading!)