Whenever I fill out a form that asks for my occupation, I always feel a bit strange writing down “student,” because frankly it doesn’t fit the traditional role of a job. It’s not 9-to-5. We usually don’t get penalized by our professors for being late or missing class. And, most noticeably, we never really get a break outside of scheduled academic recesses.
Combined with the trend to spend as much time on extracurriculars as classes, we never really get a day off. Yes, we have weekends. But Saturday and Sunday are less “days of relief” as they are “days of catching up.” Ask someone how their weekend was, and most responses will include, “You know, did some work” or “Tried to do some work, but wasn’t too successful.” Even if we don’t have a p-set, paper or project looming, we have this pervasive sense at all times that there is more work we could be doing. We could benefit from doing our reading, studying for that test a few weeks down the line or starting a p-set early. I have never once, except after finals, gotten a sense that I was done with work for the day.
When I finally dropped CPSC 223 (sorry dad!), I officially had no classes on Wednesdays. Amid rooming chaos, summer internship rejections and midterm pressure, I was feeling overwhelmed. I considered studying abroad next fall just so I could take a break from the campus culture that often resembles a pressure cooker. In an attempt to get away from all of the stress on campus, I actually got away. I left.
I took a train last Tuesday night to Grand Central, crashed at my brother’s place in Queens and spent this past Wednesday on a break. I didn’t bring my laptop to try to finish cover letters or get a head start on my reading. On the train, I chatted with a guy from West Haven who asked to borrow my phone charger. I finally read my favorite magazines and newspapers that I haven’t been able to get to for the past few weeks.
On Wednesday, I slept until 10:45 a.m., grabbed a banana for breakfast and navigated the subway system up to the opposite side of Central Park. I was an hour early for the lunch I had planned with my friend at Columbia, so I stumbled into a bookstore and bought a guidebook for spring break. I got a manicure, chatting with the Ecuadorian woman across from me about the frigid New York weather. I had a lazy lunch with my friend, talking aimlessly and eating gluttonously (who would’ve thought to put bacon, mac n’ cheese and avocado all on a burger?). When we finished, we decided to go to the Met. We wandered around our favorite exhibits, taking Snapchats posing as various statues. When our knees started to hurt, we left and went our separate ways. I had wanted to go to more places, but was feeling a bit sick, so I headed back to Queens and took a nap. I woke up around dinnertime, ordered in some Thai food with my brother and then made my way back to Yale.
I am no Ferris Bueller. I fully recognize that I did not live out this past Wednesday to the fullest, stuffing my day full of adventure and memories. But that was never my intention. I wanted to get out of Yale, geographically and mentally. I wanted to remind myself that often problems that occur at Yale aren’t as large as they seem. I wanted not to feel so trapped by my academic and extracurricular obligations. Yes, I had to ask somebody else to send an email for me on Wednesday afternoon to my club gymnastics team. Yes, I’m slightly more behind on my reading and p-sets. I took my day off, and now I resume life as a student.
Some of you may read this and immediately think, “That sounds nice, but I can’t afford a day off.” I implore you to think about how unsustainable that lifestyle is. Weeks and weeks of working daily, only using weekends as time to do more work, cannot possibly be good for your mental health. One day off won’t ruin your GPA or extracurriculars, but it can do wonders for your mental wellbeing, which is vital for success of every kind.
Take a break. Leave campus. Go do something else for a day. If being students is our job, we owe a day off to ourselves.
Kira Tebbe is a sophomore in Pierson College. Contact her at email@example.com.