It’s not new to my Her Campus career that I used to smoke cigarettes but quit around this time last year. It’s not that unusual either in the grand scheme of college culture. Honestly, I’d be interested to see how many Kenyon students who now loiter near doorways smoked before they got to college. I guess it’s partly a cultural thing because where I come from, an upper middle-class suburb of New York, the only smokers were the kids who did it on the curb across from the high school during their free period just to make the teachers squirm.
So you smoke because it tastes good when you drink and you quit because you start doing it sober. A year later and it’s still not so easy for me to turn down one at a party.
Smoking is just one thing, though. It’s just one vice. The world is an uncomfortable place to be for most people, especially when you’re in college. Most of us accumulate vices because it’s easier, even if we’re working through our discomfort or our issues in other, more sanctioned settings. Some people smoke, some people drink on weekdays, and some people are compulsive online shoppers. It’s all about a release, often from whatever reality is currently torturing us with.
When I came back to Kenyon for my sophomore year, I slowly started weeding out my vices. I have an addictive personality, and I had gotten pretty attached to various ways of numbing myself. I’m in my junior year now, still struggling to figure out a healthy way to escape. Neither escaping nor having vices are inherently bad things. Human beings need to take breaks and let their minds wander without a guide. It’s just a very fine line between temporarily detaching and becoming dependent on dissociation. If the period of time when you don’t have to think about the world around you is all that gets you through the day, you might want to reevaluate how you are living your days.
I work out now. I hate it, like I’ve always hated it, but it forces me to take an hour out of my day to enter into a sort of an alternate reality. I don’t do my homework and I don’t really talk to anyone either. This way of detaching is by attaching to something else: my body. As someone who mostly lives in their head, it is a break from the world to focus entirely on the way my body is moving, even if that’s just to realize how much I hate sweating.
Baking is similar and crafting too. What I am slowly figuring out is that the trick is to find activities in reality that are voluntary, outside of your usual routine, and meditative in some way. Your reality should be one you enjoy, at least partially, and I don’t think it’s a great idea to say that escaping into a different reality is the only way to be happy or relax. Instead, escape into a different part of your reality.
I guess this is just another take on the idea of mindfulness, asking you to be aware of the pleasures regular life can bring you. For me, it’s different because I understand the craving for an easy vice. One that stops you from thinking and doesn’t require much effort to get used to, like going out every weekend. That effort you save, though, comes back in the form of the toll it takes on your physical and mental health. It becomes hard to escape the consequences of that escape. In my personal quest, I have found crossword puzzles paired with the 12 seasons of “Criminal Minds” to be useful and blissfully low impact.