by Haley Atkinson
The start of each semester is a reset button in the life of a college student. The syllabus, still warm from the printer, becomes the road map for the upcoming months. Classes are filled with new and different faces. The breaks in our days shift, and it seems as though the possibilities are endless. There is a sense of power and control; we are not yet consumed by our schedules. This freedom is fleeting, though; within the initial days of the semester, the business begins to dictate our lives. With the busy onslaught of spring semester, we must take a moment to pause and consider our priorities, establishing a method to the madness.
As the pages of our planners and spaces of our Outlook calendars fill, we begin to wonder how it will all fit. Watching the spaces in our week disappear becomes a game. There are the fixed items that cannot move, such as classes, club meetings, Intramural games, lectures and concerts, but there are also the variables: assignments, the countless coffee chats we daily promise, group projects, trips to the gym, treks to the store and hope for hours of sleep.
My planner has become an appendage. Throughout the day I flip its pages asking myself where can I fit this assignment, that meeting? It reminds me of the hours I spent playing Rush Hour as a child, sliding the cars and trucks back and forth seeking to free the red car. I am now the red car, sliding myself back and forth between the sedans, station wagons and semi trucks, pushing towards the opening of summer, but is this a healthy perspective? Do we want to feel as though we are struggling to get through? “No” is the knee-jerk answer, but far too often, “yes” is our reality.
As students, we are encouraged to join clubs, become interns, apply for leadership positions and continue marching toward our promising futures. Our reward for performing well in our classes is the freedom and encouragement to take a larger number of credits in the subsequent semester.
In the midst of our hectic lives, do we have the time to enjoy them? Are we able to share life with those around us, absorb the information given in our classes, come to know the wonderful people we meet?
I would be the Campus Hypocrite if I were to say we should each take one thing off our schedule, or cut out that unneeded activity. I tend to operate on the “what’s one more _______” philosophy, constantly striving to have my cake and eat it too.
I recently came across a piece by Thich Nhat Hanh, founder of Plum Village, that resonates through his idea of “washing the dishes to wash the dishes.” In his “The Miracle of Mindfulness,” he says, “while washing the dishes one should only be washing the dishes, which means that while washing the dishes one should be completely aware of the fact one is washing the dishes.”
The simple task of washing the dishes is a mindless, seemingly menial task, yet it can become a cherished time. The practice of setting aside 10 to 15 minutes a day to be still, to center, to refocus, paves the way to enjoying the full lives we live. In these moments we must consider what we value in life, why we are filling our days with these classes, activities and relationships. It is necessary to consider what truth we hold at the center of our hearts, and how we can live this out in the midst of our daily lives. On the other hand, when we go through our crammed days without purpose, every task becomes monotonous.
In the hectic days of spring, this means that while reading, eating and talking we must push aside the to-do list and fully engage in the activity at hand. Hanh concludes, “We are not alive during the time we are washing the dishes. In fact we are completely incapable of realizing the miracle of life while standing at the sink.”
We would be able to take so much more from this semester if we studied to study, ran to run, questioned to understand, conversed to know and learned to recognize the miracle of life in each of the moments of our day.