I often dread the first week back at school after a long break, especially the small talk of, “How were your holidays?” and “What did you do during this break?” I listen agonizingly as people tell me all about their tropical vacation or their skiing trip or their internship or how hard they worked at their job. Then the pitying look that grows in their eyes when I tell them that I didn’t do anything over the break. The response is always, “Oh, well then that rest must have been nice.” Then we quickly change the subject because there is truly nothing left to say.
I have had this exact same conversation at least five more times with five different people. It’s always the same after each break, and I used to be embarrassed by this. My life seemed completely drab in comparison to others because I didn’t have the tan lines to show off as proof of my good time. But as I get closer and closer to graduation and the next step in my adult life, I’m no longer embarrassed of doing nothing–in fact, it’s what I look most forward to.
Since I was a child, my parents have instilled a strong work ethic in me. I watched as they worked multiple jobs at ungodly hours, and that’s what I learned success looked like. You have to work to be happy, and you’ll never get anything good from lazing around. If you’re not doing something, then find something to do. Once you’ve worked hard enough, then maybe you can think about taking a break. Writing this down like this makes me realize how truly awful a view it is of life. Constant work in the hopes that at the end we’ll be able to find some rest? It’s a hard life, but it’s the one I had prepared myself for.
Throughout college, this has been my mindset: work hard every minute of every day because it’ll all be worth it in the end. This was the road to happiness. I never wasted my time with TV or hobbies or relationships. They were things that could be enjoyed after the fact. But as I got older and closer to what came next, I realized that there never was going to be an “after the fact.” After graduation from college came medical school, residency, my career, a husband, a family and responsibilities every day until the end. There was never going to be a day when the work was over and the success could finally be enjoyed. So if there is never an end, then what am I waiting for?
This shift in mindset has changed how I approach my life and time. If there’s no “after,” then why don’t I start enjoying my successes now? I started giving myself rests after completing assignments or doing well in my classes. I started watching new movies and reading again. I played Wii with my roommates and baked and cooked myself a nice dinner just because I could. I spent my winter break sleeping in until noon, reading all day in my pajamas and drinking coffee with peppermint creamer and no cares in the world. I gave myself breaks and rests when my body told me I needed it. This new change led me to new joys in the little things, in the quiet moments of rest or in the sigh after finishing a really good book. These new moments were ones that I had denied myself for too long thinking that I’d have more time for them later in life.
So did I do almost nothing during my break? Yes and no. I didn’t go anywhere or have some amazing job or some great party. But I did rest, and it was the best thing I could’ve asked for.