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The ultimate oxymoron: A productive break

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Dead Week is looming, we just had a week of break and the to-do list that stretches out on my desk is frightening. How is it that, in an entire week, not only have I not done what I hoped to do, but I also haven’t done what I need to do? Aren’t Stanford students supposed to be always working hard (and playing hard)? The last week seems to have disappeared into thin air.

Two weeks before Thanksgiving break, I had already begun looking forward to all that extra time for work. Imagine the freedom of an entire week without classes, just to do homework! I was genuinely enthused about the prospect of spending most of the week indoors, staring at my computer screen, relaxedly taking the time to think through assignments and projects without a deadline looming. And so, before break, carried away by hopes and dreams of a smooth end of the quarter, I made a list of things to do during that week.

While I was busy congratulating myself on being organized, a danger eluded me: A list made too long in advance while in the throes of optimism grows to include not only what you can realistically accomplish, but also what you would only get done in an ideal scenario. In the moment, I genuinely believed I was going to get everything done and more. Despite my enthusiasm, though, I knew somewhere deep inside that the chances of my even getting a few things done were slim.

And indeed they were. When the long-awaited break actually rolled around, I realized that I wanted it to be just that: a break. Not an entire week still thinking about school or still working on homework. So I took a night off, promising myself I’d get to work first thing the next morning. Of course, if you talk with friends until 5 a.m., “first thing the next morning” quickly becomes “sometime in the evening when my brain starts functioning.”

You know the drill. Soon a night becomes two, then three … Midway through the week, you feel guilty and check off a small thing from your endless list, just to calm your conscience as you joyfully spend the rest of the week doing everything but what you should be doing.

So there I was, break almost over and more to do than could ever be done. I felt guilty for barely having scratched the surface of what I should’ve finished long ago and cursed my past self for not being more considerate. I know, however, that what I enjoyed in the last week was much needed in its own way.

Maybe I should’ve gotten more done as a proactive act of kindness to myself for the last three weeks of the quarter. But even if I’m tired, I have far more to do now than a week ago and I am wondering how this quarter is going to end, I’m happy – this break was worth it.

 

Contact Axelle Marcantetti at axellem ‘at’ stanford.edu.

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