It’s only May, but for college students, summer is almost here.
Tomorrow I will turn in a management paper. Today I will start my political science paper. I’ll finish it next week and turn it in. And then I’m done.
And then summer begins.
Most people think that summer is what a college student lives for. But based on how breaks from school have typically been for me and my friends who are also older, working, nontraditional students, summer is, frankly…pretty dreadful.
We students spend months going at full tilt, working, studying, writing papers, keeping ourselves barely afloat mentally, emotionally, physically and financially. And then in a week it all ends. We hardly know what to do with ourselves. Our whole lives were built around school, and when school ends there’s a huge and empty space — and nothing to fill it. Or at least nothing handy to fill it with. Older students are not so good at laying around all summer, and people living on loans and a tight student budget are not very good at it at all.
Which sounds ridiculous to write. I am well aware that what I have written sounds clueless and self-pitying. And if it were only me that felt that way during breaks from school, I’d keep my confusion to myself. But it’s not that way for me alone, but for all my schoolfriends my age.
So I have decided to gather the wisdom of summers past and try to try something different this year.
The first puzzle-piece is self-care. My health is in the toilet lately, and I neither exercise regularly nor eat right, and I am paying with a chronic general feeling of mental and physical listlessness, headaches and insomnia. So I’ve promised myself to try to eat right, cook and go back to the gym. To make good food for myself like I mattered, to try to remember the delight of strength and exertion and the beautiful moods that exercise engenders.
And I’ve become horribly disconnected from friends and family. Really, when I think about it, my whole problem is one of connection. My health problems really stem from a disconnection from myself, my body and the pleasure I once took in daily life. I spend most of my energy on learning because the connection there is always so fiery, so passionate, so strong, like a wonderful love affair that never ends and is always changing, deepening, growing better and more interesting with every passing year. It’s the surest and sanest thing in my life, I think sometimes. I spend less energy on my health, as it’s a pain in the ass to keep up and cultivate, and so time-consuming when I could be sleeping in, or blogging, or writing a paper or anything easy and gratifying, with rewards that are less valuable but easier to savor in the short term… Truly, the secret to self-care is being happy to be alive, and feeling real joy in the present moment and in everyday life.
And I have promised myself to reconnect myself to my friends. Last night I wanted to go out to Stitch ‘n’ Bitch and also to tea at a friend’s women’s group, but was tired, headachy and antisocial. Does being disconnected wear you down so far that you have no energy to left to connect, and it becomes a feedback loop? Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood. I ended up having a mildly insomniac night lying on the hammock in the back yard, seeing the moon through the trees and the whitish night sky behind the black branches and feeling my fretting mind heal itself in an instant and thinking that moments like this were what life was all about. The moments when time slows, washing over you like a gentle river, blowing over you like a breeze all but making a gentle whistling softly in your ear, almost a physical flow you can feel brushing your skin. Your thoughts are slow and clear and wholly yours. A cat pounces on nothing in the dark and the wind blows the trees and the quiet darkness is a tiny pocket of sanity, your hammock a cloth pod where you are safe as a seed in the soil.
So. I must put myself back to the gym-club harness, pulling the weight of my health all the long length of my life. And I must seek out and go to those whom I love, for a great danger of the self-sufficient introvert is forgetting how much more fun life can be with someone else, and taking the easy way out. It’s so easy to stay in and long for someone to talk to here in the house (why must company always be something that I seek rather than a quiet gift?), to feel that old gut-wrenching loss of my friend whom I miss so, who always felt like a mental haven to me and who is gone. I have daydreamed a million times that he just shows up in the night and walks back into my life, but he never does and I do not think he ever will and I will make no more new connections if I live all my evenings curled up under the velvet throw, quite protected and quite reasonably happy except for the constant yapping howl of isolation that always comes with darkness, polluting my dear house with its desperation.
And there is one more thing that I would like to try as I try to solve the puzzle of summer for the first time, rather that leaving it unsolved and wasting a rare break yet again.
I think I need a good summer writing project.
One of my profs is taking a sabbatical to finish his book. A dear friend is driving to Iowa with her daughter to take a writing workshop, something that made me insanely jealous until I realized that I was a professional writer and I lay in bed laughing at myself for a solid 15 seconds. The fact that I never take vacations is not the fault of a cruel universe or my friend and her daughter sucking up all the world’s vacation time, but my own fault. I do not have much money, but I do do fairly well in a lucrative profession, even crimped as I am by spending so much energy on school. If I wanted to vacation, truly wanted to, I could do it. And I do want to, so I suppose I am going to. I want a sabbatical of sorts myself, a working vacation to do some kind of cool writing project. I think I will brainstorm about it tomorrow.
A series of science blog entries?
Pitch a magazine on a story?
See if there are any writing workshops that I could afford that would really interest me?
Write a short story?
Oh, dear writing that always fixes me when I am sad, like you have done just now, I would like for us too to become better connected.
And that, my friends, is how I will try to solve summer, the puzzle that has always defeated me before. I am growing in wisdom, and this summer we will see if I can defeat my lack of connection at last. It comes at me at every break from school. Someday I will be the winner. Maybe it will be this time.