The highlight of my fall break, my crowning achievement, and perhaps the only tangible thing I have to show for this brief season of my life sits on the cold tile floor of my laundry room, stacked and folded neatly in a weathered plastic basket.
Yes, the hype is warranted. The rumors are true; I did my laundry.
And aside from a small direct deposit that will come in from working a few odd hours, I guess I don’t have much else to show for this past week.
In fact, I accomplished nearly nothing on my to-do list, and Intersession plans remain up in the air. I never even opened that book I was meant to read. Never cleared that drawer, and I still don’t have a summer internship (know anyone who works in media?).
But I got my laundry done, and I think I’m quite proud of myself.
Is this a typical act of millennial bravado? An overindulged young adult congratulating themself on yet another seemingly negligible accomplishment? Is this the 19-year-old version of a participation trophy, or Bart Simpson with a cake saying “At Least You Tried” on it?
It just might be. But this year, I’m working on not punishing myself for not making it through my to-do list, nor kicking myself for taking an hour, a day, or even a week to simply rest. From my classes to my activities to my weekend plans, I’ve been careful not to overload myself.
Sometimes I worry that I’m falling behind or not meeting some of the lofty goals I’ve set for myself. But as I’ve taken a step back, I’ve found myself more capable of leaning in to key moments, and finding a growing sense of contentment and clarity. I’ve spent more time with people. I’ve spent more time with myself. While I may not have anything to show for these moments aside from an Instagram story or two, I’ve found that it’s not always necessary to have something to “show” for each day.
“Showing” is an inherently “outward” act. It is not done for oneself, but for others. We are hard-pressed to “show” something for each day (capitalism necessitates it), but at the University this pressure can be amplified even further. At dinner with our friends, we rattle off lists of “things” we did in the past few days — accepted a job offer, went out on Thursday, swiped right on Tinder. The list varies each time but is typically comprised of many of the same type of items, over and over.
Sometimes we talk about how we’re doing mentally and physically, but I’ve seen that these conversations more often happen at 2 a.m. in a dorm room, after a long week, when the tediousness of show business has scrubbed us raw, when we’re all feeling more vulnerable, when we can lean in and talk about these more intimate matters. We stop showing, and we start telling. Sharing, unlike showing, nurtures the self and our relationships with others.
This past week, and in this first half of the semester, I haven’t altogether stopped pursuing “show-worthy” things. I did look into budget vacations, and I did search for a job. But somewhere in between the third and fourth LinkedIn accounts I stalked, I realized that it was time to give it a rest (and do my laundry). I wanted to chill, and I figured I should while I still can. I stepped back, but I remain confident that I will eventually accomplish everything I have set out for myself.
There is a time to grind and a time for productivity. University students, and students in general, know this all too well. But in line with the self-care spiels that have become so common that they are ignored, I’m here to reiterate that it is okay to rest and it is okay not to meet your goals immediately, even during fall break, when it feels like a critical time to get things done before the holidays and before the semester revs back up again.
Let’s stop showing and start telling, and start listening too. Let’s de-stigmatize rest and inactivity. Maybe then we’ll stop getting so exhausted. Maybe then we’ll find we can actually accomplish more and feel more fulfilled by it all too. Here’s to the second half of this semester.