Reading break is nigh. Perhaps this time you’ll actually use it to read. Or perhaps you’ll catch up on all that sleep you sacrificed to get that stupid project finished. Whatever you do, don’t waste this week of opportunity on school stuff, unless you actually enjoy it.
University seems designed to break us. A full course-load, which you ought to take if you plan on graduating before you’re a grandfather of three, not only takes up most of the daylight hours of the week with lectures, but paying for the education is impossible without entering debt or having a full-time job. And adding homework on top of those time requirements means we either have to sacrifice a healthy sleep and meal cycle or a healthy social life. It’s very easy to become sick or depressed if you don’t go in with a plan.
First of all, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. The Canadian Organization of University and College Health conducted a study in 2013 which revealed that “almost 90 per cent of students said that they felt overwhelmed by all they had to do in the past year, while more than 50 per cent said they felt hopeless and 63 per cent said they felt very lonely,” The Globe and Mail reports. Furthermore, 9.5 per cent had said “they had seriously considered taking their own lives in the past year, while 1.3 per cent said they had attempted suicide.” If you feel this way, you aren’t just one outlier whining into the void. You are a human being.
Reading break can therefore function as a week of catharsis, a week of letting go of your shitty lifestyle and existential turmoil, and getting in touch with yourself and the things that make life good. But what makes life good? According to Aristotle, some of the things that contribute to a good life include friendship, self-esteem, and pleasure. Has university drained any of these things from your life? You have a week — go get ‘em!
Relationships can only be formed by having human contact, so get in contact with some humans. UFV in particular seems to have a problem with student engagement; it’s always the same groups throwing and attending events, while many other students tend to treat this place like a big kid’s high school they want to get the hell away from at the end of the day. I know from experience that it can feel really difficult to make new friends in this atmosphere without being a part of any major organizations like SUS or CiVL. It’s up to you to break this barrier for yourself. Attend some local events! Go to a party! Kiss your sweetheart! At the very least, call up some old friends you haven’t been able to see lately because you’ve been too busy. Even the most self-sufficient, capitalistic solipsist needs a little human contact to level out their angst.
Self-esteem is a little trickier to get a grasp on. Knowing that we chose to get into the mess of student life makes it very easy, once time starts crunching and relationships start dissolving, to hate ourselves. Step one: leave your fucking basement. We live in an area where nature hasn’t yet been totally decimated, and getting in touch with the natural world is a great way of centering the self and understanding just how insignificant human problems really are. Step two: accomplish something. You don’t need to win any Academy Awards or cure cancer, but just get a little better at something or try something new. Practice your stupid guitar, clean your bathroom, and book that dentist’s appointment you’ve been avoiding. It’s the little stuff that adds up fastest.
Lastly, seek a little pleasure for once in your stubborn little life. Sleep in! Make love! Intoxicate yourself! Listen to all that music you pretend you don’t like in public! If all you want to do is play Fallout 4 and masturbate, do it. Splurging is actually okay, once in a while, so long as you intend it as catharsis and not as escape. And, so long as you aren’t actually damaging yourself or others, letting loose, kicking back, and just not worrying about maintaining a professional, intelligent image is not going to ruin you. You will be recharged, reoriented, and ready for the grind of university again.
Next week, forget school. Reading break exists — use it.