For as long as I can remember, I’ve always looked forward to the winter holiday season. It seems like each year as the calendar rolls around to December, the atmosphere just becomes electric. People’s moods change, the number of random acts of kindness exponentially increases and there’s an overall sense of optimism that pervades daily life, despite the weather’s cold temperatures and blizzard warnings. Christmas has always meant spending time with family and friends, getting much needed time off school and the return of those creepy Rankin-Bass claymation shows and holiday movie marathons on almost every cable network.
I can still picture my elementary school self, sitting in class fidgeting in my desk and looking at the large snowflakes lazily falling from the sky. While my teachers would drone on about long division or state capitals, I would make a mental list of things that I would accomplish during time off from school. My goals were always pretty lofty and would include things like catching up on “Boxcar Children” mysteries, beating Sonic 2, building countless snow forts and watching all of the Aladdin movies multiple times. I still do the same thing and create a list of goals for winter break. Although my prioritizes have changed (slightly), items now include spending time with friends, getting lots of sleep, reading for fun, playing with cats, watching lots of daytime talk shows and exercising.
However, no matter how much detail and scheduling I put into my break plans, things never seem to work out correctly. Something unexpected will happen that will throw a wrench into all of my ideas. From sudden family drama, a blizzard ruining travel plans or the cable going out, break often feels like a disappointment when compared to the grand visions I had for it. My general consensus is that either my expectations are simply too unrealistic or I lose my to-do list in the process of heading home.
Looking back, I think it’s a mixture of both. Let’s be real, college is hectic. We’re all too busy, over-extended and running on borrowed time. Trying to expect to be productive over break is simply an extension of our crazy daily routines. We’re so hardwired to keep running at breakneck speed that it’s easy to lose sight of the truly important things. Instead of planning out every moment of our time at home, we should work to embrace the free time that we’re given. There’s nothing wrong with telling yourself it’s okay to be bored, to sit and do nothing, to simply relax and to take time to appreciate the many wonders in our lives and the world around us.
For this break, I challenge you to take time for yourself. Put that to-do list aside and see where the day takes you. Pay a visit to those friends you haven’t heard from in a while, meet up with relatives and help them with their holiday shopping. Of course, I understand that there is a time and a place for everything and that there are things that simply need to be accomplished over break. One of the many things on my list includes sending out materials to potential employers and polishing up my résumé. The key is don’t go overboard. Find days during break where you can be productive and get things accomplished, but make sure that you don’t overbook yourself. Set reasonable goals that include both responsible tasks and fun ones. Take that needed time to enjoy the season with family and friends and savor those moments while they last.
This will be my last true Christmas Break. I intend to make the most of it. I hope that you do the same.
A senior majoring in Political Science and Communication, James hails from Omaha, Nebraska. He focuses primarily on the unique things that define our everyday lives.