On my first Monday of summer, I jumped out of bed with a spring in my step, ready to tap into my optimistic “school’s out” mentality and make something of my boundless free time. Summer, that wonderful season where laziness and lethargy are permissible and celebrated. But I was determined not to let that get in the way of accomplishing something constructive in the two short months of my break. I glanced at my summer to-do list, filled with chores, crafts and self-betterment activities that “must be completed on or before the start of fall semester,” as specified under the Rules and Regulations appendix of my list.
Scanning the long list, which I had written during the last weeks of school in a flurry of seasonal anticipation, I skipped over No. 4 — learn basic Mandarin — and didn’t even bother to contemplate tackling No. 9 — start composting. Finally I settled on No. 11: clean out my closet. That’s manageable enough, I thought, as I waded through the jungle gym of my garage in pursuit of some cardboard boxes in which to put the contents of my soon-to-be-spotless closet. Along the way, I stumbled over containers filled with rejected art projects, a Razor scooter and a half-finished scarf still attached to knitting needles — until my eyes fell on our old collection of Disney videotapes.
My closet did not get cleaned that day. And one week later, I’m only three-quarters of the way through my impromptu Disney movie marathon, a pursuit that has come to occupy nearly all of my hard-pressed time. My to-do list disappeared somewhere between “Cinderella” and “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.”
I’ve fully succumbed to my inner sloth, one of the seven deadly sins that my school year obligations always have a way of squashing once autumn rolls around. Laziness doesn’t stand a chance against endless amounts of homework, work duties and familial and friend obligations. Never having been one to procrastinate, I am frenetic during the school year, always bouncing from one activity to the next, from class to the gym to a club meeting and finally to bed. Everything is scheduled and predetermined, even my sleep schedule. The stream of duties and commitments feels infinite and suffocating — which it is — until a lovely little season rolls around to pull me out of my sedulous stupor.
Astronomically, summer is the period of time between the summer solstice and autumnal equinox. But that scientific definition just won’t do. In addition to being the two-month break between school terms, summer is a time to reinvent and improve oneself, a place of endless leisure and spontaneity, an attitude that absorbs both body and mind.
Nowadays, the season of sloth must be jam-packed with internships, jobs, travel and endless projects. The over-scheduling of the school year has rolled over into summer break, the homework and tests replaced by activities to “get ahead” for the next year.
I miss the summers of idleness, the three months when spontaneity ruled and structured activities only dragged me down. Now, like everything else in life, relaxation is no longer relaxing. Nothing is wrong with wasting a day in front of the TV or spending an afternoon daydreaming on a hammock. Many students are so disciplined for much of the year; there’s always something on the never-ending to-do list just waiting to be checked off. During the summer, toss the to-do list and scheduled monotony of the school year and learn to embrace the nothingness of the season.
We all have obligations to something or someone, whether it’s school or work or children or passions and desires. But if we could put the brakes on, take a day, a few hours, even a few minutes to cut ties with all our responsibilities, the sanity lost amid the ceaseless rat race might resurface once again, like a lily blooming after the spring.
I define true relaxation as the moments when we are truly living mindfully, our thoughts not muddled by the past or the future but consumed only by the present. Ignore the stream of tweets and texts and messages. Savor the space around you rather than trying to grasp for people and things that are not there, which is basically the function of the Internet: to make us long for people we aren’t with and places we can’t be.
I’m going against my own advice and making a plan for myself: stay in my pajamas all day with no obligations to any other person but, most importantly, no obligations to myself to check anything off my list. By unwinding and indulging in inactivity, I sense the layers of stress and commitments that piled up over the school year slowly peeling away. I already feel lighter. We don’t always need to be doing something to improve ourselves — sometimes the improvement comes from doing nothing.
Comments should remain on topic, concerning the article or blog post to which they are connected. Brevity is encouraged. Posting under a pseudonym is discouraged, but permitted. The Daily Cal encourages readers to voice their opinions respectfully in regard to the readers, writers and contributors of The Daily Californian. Comments are not pre-moderated, but may be removed if deemed to be in violation of this policy. Click here to read the full comment policy.