The Process of Slowing Down
The Big Picture

Katherine Cienkus

Katherine Cienkus

May 9 was the day I had my last final and headed home. It was a blur: dropping off boxes, cleaning my room, taking my final, getting to the airport and saying goodbye. Then came Sunday, which was Mother’s Day, a whirlwind of family activities and adjusting back to home life. After a year at Georgetown, I was well-prepared to handle this fast-paced business. However, what school had not prepared me for was what I woke up to on Monday morning.

There was complete and utter silence. No toilets were flushing, no doors were closing and no faint voices were speaking in the distance. The house was empty, with my two younger siblings at school and both of my parents at work. I was truly alone for the first time in months. Anxiously, I looked at the notes section of my phone to check my to-do list, but I soon realized my car was in the shop, so even if I wanted to go get things done, I couldn’t. I was essentially forced to relax and do nothing. Ironically, it was the most stressed and uncomfortable I had felt in a long time

Although life can seem boring and unfulfilling without a packed day ahead of us, I realized there was only going to be so many of these days left before I graduated college and entered the real world. Once you are on your own and working, or once you have a family, the days without a million errands and things on your mind will become few and far between. At school, we always have a plan that keeps us on track and fulfilled: a plan for the day, for the week and for our future in general. Then for the summer we schedule ourselves with internships and work, scared to get off track. This week at home, before I started work, I did not have a plan, and that was uncomfortable. I decided to embrace the discomfort and learn how to relax again.

Once this realization was complete, I attempted to put it into practice. I walked to the forest preserve, read a book and cooked. The transition was much easier than I anticipated. I started to think, “Wow, I could get used to this.” However, one issue I found that truly stemmed from college was the difficulty of being alone during all of these activities. I was not good at being by myself after spending every moment with friends and schoolmates during the year.

Part of the beauty of college is that you are a social being. Relationships can flourish in this setting. However, in some ways, I felt oddly unprepared for the real world after leaving it. Sometimes we may be alone, and we need to be in the present and take a step back.

By the river of the nature preserve, I did one of the most important exercises I have done all year: I looked back and reflected on my year. The highlights, the low points, what I put my time into and how I felt about all of these things. I encourage Hoyas to follow the Jesuit principle of discernment in their daily lives. Coming back home for the summer is a breather. It is a time to step back and look at ourselves and refresh ourselves for the craziness that will start again in three months. It is not a waste of time. It is very much worth it, and believe me, your plan will progress far more smoothly if you take time to step back and see where it is going.

Katherine Cienkus is a rising sophomore in the School of Foreign Service. The Big Picture appears every other Wednesday at

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