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En Route #10


After Hours

I had a run of sleepless nights this week and I think it has something to do with the post-it notes I keep by my bed. Okay, okay, let’s back up. By sleepless, I don’t mean zero hours of sleep, more that by the time I did fall asleep, the sun was well on its way up. I won’t say exact times, mostly because I think my Mom reads these now, but suffice to say that this week I was sporting some dark circles under my eyes. As a student, sleep is a precious resource and there’s never enough to go around. What starts off as a well laid out plan to get your homework done by 10pm can quickly devolve into having to set multiple alarms just to scare yourself out of bed the next morning.

My sleep troubles crept up on me in slow increments, but by the time I was burning the candle at both ends, I knew where to place the blame: seasonal stress. We’re hitting that time of year where if something is going to go wrong, it will. Whether your ceiling starts leaking, the printer stops working, or you miss the last train, it’s usually good practice to have some contingencies in mind. Formulate back-up plans and take an umbrella with you everywhere. School starts to get more than serious as final projects become not just a distant future but a pressing reality. As the weather cools, the heat turns up and it’s around this time that us wee little frogs start to realize that the bathwater we’ve been soaking in is actually starting to boil. I have a thing for organization and making lists, but when you start waking up with barely legible post-it notes in your bed, you know it’s time to take a step back and breathe.

Now I like to think of myself as an introvert, but after a few days with only myself for company, my apartment walls do start to feel like they’re closing in. Still, with the restless nights sapping my reserve of energy, I hadn’t made as much progress on a project as I’d planned and hiding under the covers seemed like the better option than going to class. I let myself lay there for a moment longer, counted backwards from ten, then got dressed and went to school. I have this rule for myself that unless I am truly unwell or have some unforeseen conflict, I try my best to make it to class. I’ve never once regretted going to class, and this time was no different. Instead of more hours spent fretting over my lists of homework, the class ended up being time for us to work on our projects and get help on whatever we needed. The whole class was in a good mood and gave me a much needed dose of socialization. I left the room smiling and feeling much more like myself again.

Productivity can be contagious and once you start making good progress, you usually want to keep going. You pick one task and you keep working at it until it’s done and then you move onto the next thing. When work starts to get overwhelming, it’s really easy to become so scattered you just jump from thing to thing without actually getting any real work done. It’s this kind of frantic thinking that keeps you up at night, writing reminders for yourself in the dark. As much enjoyment as I get from making my lists, checking things off is harder but so much more rewarding. Now I’m in no way perfect at this, but since spending more time on my actual homework and less time making lists of it, I’ve been able to go to bed earlier and sleep through the night, no post-its necessary.

Being in Art school is some of the most fun I’ve ever had, but there’s no getting around the fact that it’s hard work. It’s because we care deeply about what we do that we can tie ourselves in knots over every little thing, wanting it to be perfect. But this can be paralyzing, and adopting a healthier, “let’s just take it one step at a time and see what we can do” mindset makes for a lot less sleepless nights. As much as we love what we do, it should never come at the cost of our health or well-being. A little stress is normal, but too much and it quickly becomes damaging to both ourselves and our work. A big project is due for class this Friday and even as my peers and I race to finish our work in time, we’ve also made sure to plan a dinner out after class to celebrate our victories and enjoy a night of no have-to’s.

As we were walking home from class the other night, my friend and I had to pause for a minute and watch as the sun set perfectly down the road. We’d been lamenting our homework woes, but this sight rendered us silent, a brief respite and reminder that there were better things to think about. Sunsets don’t usually change the course of your life, but they can add a little color to an otherwise grey day. I hope that however stressful your semester is, you’re able to take some space where you can and just breathe.

Hang in there!

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