I was walking across a college campus today (I visit college campuses as part of my job) and was struck by a bit of nostalgia. It became immediately clear to me by how quiet it was that classes were no longer in session. Only a few students and faculty were evident – mostly gathered in small groups engaged in relaxed conversation. Nobody seemed to be in a hurry. The campus seemed at peace.
This happens every year about this time. While visiting a college campus to meet with a customer I am struck for the first time of the season with the realization that the academic year has ended at this college. My first clue is always that parking is abundant 🙂 . But it is not until I am walking across campus that the real beauty of this time of year hits me. Its quiet. People are happy. Everything feels at peace.
I remember how this time of year felt when I was in college. The stresses of exams are over. Projects are finished. That Stat 23 class was hell but I studied hard, persevered, and pulled out a B+. Now its time to relax, catch up on rest, reflect, and move on.
After college, it was tough adjusting to the fact that there was no break from the stresses of real life automatically built into my work calendar. During my first couple of years in the workforce after college I found myself craving an extended break around the winter holidays and during the summer. Sure, I had vacation time but taking a couple of days or weeks off just wasn’t the same. The job was always there waiting. There was rarely any closure to anything – at least not with the jobs I chose. I remember thinking that after being in school for 16 years I had pretty much figured out what I needed to do to get an A in a class (or at least get close) but being new to the workforce I had no idea how to manage the social complexities of work to a point where I felt like I was doing a good job.
Well, I lived and learned and eventually figured out some things I did well. I worked my way into a good sales career. But this time of year always reminds me of that almost euphoric feeling I would get at the end of a college semester – especially in the spring. Today I was struck by the thought that as adults we all still need the type of rest that was automatically built into the college calendar. The breaks. The times for reflection. For closure. But in the working world those breaks are rarely as defined as they are in college. Vacation time is great but it is usually either spent traveling or catching up on projects around the house. If you play it right you might still get some rest and relaxation but you do not get a lot of time to reflect and to put closure on things. It is up to each of us individually to make the space in our lives for reflection and closure. Most of us (myself definitely included) are not that good at it.
My walk across campus today helped me realize that we all need the time for rest, relaxation, reflection, and closure that the college calendar brings. Life gets more complicated as we get older and become “responsible adults”. Careers get more challenging. We start families. Our responsibilities grow. With all of this, we probably need more time for rest, reflection, and closure than we did when we were in school. Unfortunately though, most of us get so bogged down in our busy lives that we ignore the signs that life sends us indicating that we need a break. Putting it off until later – when things slow down. But things don’t slow down.
I decided today that I am going to make more time for rest, reflection, and closure in my life. It will not be the same as college winter or summer break. It can’t be. It shouldn’t be. Instead, it will likely come in the form of short blocks of time specifically devoted to reflection, closure, finding peace, etc. I do not know all of the forms that these breaks will take but I do know that these types of activities will help me gain more perspective on the bigger picture of life. I list some of them here in case they might be helpful to others. Most of them are fairly simple.
Taking a deep breath when I am starting to feel stressed about something.
Taking a few minutes to think about my last meeting/conversation, etc.. What went well? What could go better next time? Accepting both categories as learning experiences.
Taking time to be satisfied with where I am in life.
Allowing myself to be happy.
Meditation (it is awesome how much better I feel and how much more focused I am after just meditating for 10 minutes – even when it feels like I am mostly just day dreaming the whole time).
Allowing myself to dream.
Finding more time to authentically celebrate – personally, with family, with friends.
What ways can you slow down your life in order to gain more perspective on the bigger picture of life. In order to live more fully in the present. Please share your thoughts. We can all learn from them.