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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Back in the swing of things

Published: February 4, 2011
Section: Opinions

GRAPHIC BY Leah Lefkowitz/The Hoot

High School was a routine. Monday through Friday I woke up to my alarm, went to school, came home, participated in various activities, procrastinated, accomplished some homework and went to bed—though never as early as I’d hoped. All the while, I knew that the next day would bring the same cycle of events. I never had to scramble for plans on a Tuesday. I definitely never slept away a random Thursday. I existed in a perpetual state of exhaustion, constantly counting down the days until a weekend or school break.

Originally, I had planned to begin university straight out of high school; however, being accepted to Brandeis as a midyear gave me an opportunity for an extended break. Instead of taking classes in my semester off, I traveled abroad to volunteer and taught English in a local elementary school. True, I had to wake up to an alarm four days a week for about two months but, aside from that, my life contained no schedule of events, no rhythm. I didn’t have anything to accomplish when the school day ended. I didn’t have commitments to uphold. I could finally do whatever I pleased basically whenever I pleased.

While my friends from high school stressed about papers and exams, became skilled at functioning on no sleep and over-scheduled their lives with extracurriculars, I sat on my uncomfortable bed eating hummus out of a tub, creating mindless conversation with my roommate, napping, watching (mostly awful) movies and exploring the World Wide Web. I even familiarized myself with a new emotion: boredom—something that I’d certainly never experienced in the hustle and bustle of my high school life. I didn’t have to worry at night that I had forgotten to do something, mostly because I had nothing to do.

One mindless day turned into another until (finally) it became time to begin university. I so looked forward to the structure, to the obligations, to the ability to be productive. By the end of six months without it, I had truly begun to miss everything that came along with school. I was ready to jump right in.

Culture shock.

After my first day of classes, I already had more work than I knew what to do with. Reading, a short essay, more reading, the article I had agreed to write for The Hoot, more reading … it was daunting. So, I did the logical thing: turned on my laptop and sat down to work. By which I mean, turned on my laptop, put my iTunes on shuffle and opened Facebook and Skype. Needless to say, an hour later, nothing had been accomplished. Time to relocate: a change of scenery would certainly jolt me into productivity but even that was to no avail. I went to bed, disheartened. True, I had caught up with friends from back home, bonded over un-productivity with my hall mates and figured out the perfect setting for popcorn, but my work remained, daunting as ever.

Eventually I began the process of working, breaking the cycle of un-productivity that I had perfected in my months off. It felt unnatural at first. But, as the minutes slowly ticked by, a rhythm resurfaced. When everything was finally done, I was overcome with a true feeling of accomplishment, a feeling I had not had reason to feel in much too long.

Some days, as I sit in the Village C common room or, on days when I actually need to focus, the library with my textbooks and notepads, I find myself wishing I could just relax with some pita and a corny comedy, but—for the most part—I am honestly glad to have something productive to do every single day. Who would’ve thought I would ever miss school? I guess distance makes the heart grow fonder after all.