I recently had an epiphany of sorts, and it came when I was wholly unprepared and midway through an episode of “Game of Thrones.” My epiphany, though unexpected, was aptly timed because it concerned precisely what I was doing: relaxing.
Downtime is important in resting and recharging both mind and body. There isn’t a lot of it, so I feel an unexpectedly large pressure to relax “properly.” As a college student, I feel like I should probably be going to parties every weekend; as a 20-year-old, I should probably keep up with popular shows so that I can understand pop culture references (winter is coming, by the way); and as a female, I should probably know precisely what went wrong between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner to result in their impending divorce.
But there are several reasons that I can’t do what I feel like I should be doing. Parties are loud, late at night and, after a long week, often unappealing. “Game of Thrones” is so violent that I can only watch it if I have two hours of free time: one hour to watch a thrilling (yet demoralizing) episode and another hour of recovery via “The Office” or “The West Wing.” I believe that what Ben and Jennifer do or don’t do is none of my business. All this makes me realize that I have a lot of power over what I do in my free time. Don’t get me wrong; parties are fun, “Game of Thrones” is mesmerizing and the lives of the rich and famous can be interesting. But, there’s a very real chance that I should be focusing less on what it feels like I should be doing and more on doing what I want to do.
This summer, I’ve been testing out this approach to life. I’ll go to the Rosslyn Outdoor Film Festival instead of a late night social gathering; I’ll rewatch “Harry Potter” or “Cool Runnings” where adversity is featured more than violence, and where any violence is part of the plot — protagonists trying to foil opposition — rather the gratuitous result of efforts to sit in a supremely uncomfortable chair; I’ll read a book that’s been on my list instead of parsing out the details of life events of those I don’t even know. I choose to paddleboard on the Potomac, try new restaurants and learn to play racquetball. My forms of downtime are absolutely not superior to anyone else’s, but I’ve noticed that doing what works for me, rather than what society and movies say the college experience should be, makes me cheerier, less exhausted and more interested in everything going on around me. Why should I waste energy on the activities I don’t have interest in, or activities that bring me no joy, when there are so many activities that do?
I wish this is a lesson that I had learned sooner, namely in freshman year. I could probably have saved myself a lot of time and heartbreak if I’d taken better care of myself and paid more attention to what I really wanted in regards to downtime and my college experience as a whole. But then, would this realization have been so important to me if I hadn’t discovered it for myself? I don’t think so.
I think the real college experience, which is — ironically — often the underlying theme of movies depicting college life, is that we all have to figure out what works for us personally and go with it while making an effort to not judge anybody else for what works for him.
If celebrity gossip is your thing, keep me informed. I’ll return the favor by naming every Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher Harry Potter ever had and presenting a rousing rendition of the Jamaican bobsledding team’s fundraising song. Without a doubt, there are many who have little to no interest in either Harry Potter’s education or the story of the 1988 Jamaican bobsledding team. But here’s the beautiful thing; I accept that wholeheartedly.
We can’t all like the same things, and all of us have different things that bring us joy. I’ve learned so much at Georgetown: in the classroom, at work and through my free time and interactions with other people. It’s not always pleasant, but these growing pains have taught me a lot, specifically how to do my own thing and be happy while letting others do the same.
Charlotte Glasser is a rising junior in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. An Apple a Day appears every other Wednesday at thehoya.com.
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