I have a troubling relationship with vacations. Don’t get me wrong – I love them. I wouldn’t complain much if life was just a series of summer, winter, and spring breaks. But somewhere in high school, breaks lost their golden sweetness and took on an anxious flavor.

I blame the loss of my blissful vacations on the pervasive need to be competitive. In high school, the goal was to get into a top college. So, there was always the sense of urgency to do more— to wring out every drop of productivity from each day. And I’ve only felt it more as a computer science major. There are no restrictions in our world. If you have a computer, you have access to an infinite number of ways to grow your skills. Unlike other disciplines, we aren’t limited by materials; there’s no need to obtain chemicals or test tubes or live crickets or a lab. It’s amazing, but I also feel like every spare moment must be spent on a personal project, learning new languages or how to use new technology, and brushing up on interview questions.

They are fun, enriching activities, but when they’re constantly hanging over my head, it becomes hard to truly relax. Some people have learned how to balance their life, but I clearly haven’t. Over the years, it’s become a bone-deep weariness. So I realized the one skill I need to learn, above any CS skill, is how to relax.

I used spring break as a test. I didn’t do what I usually do on break, which is to vacillate between feeling terribly guilty every minute I’m not working on something CS related or feeling terrible for not doing anything CS related because I want to relax (but can’t).  And often times, I’m so overwhelmed by all the possible things I could be working on I just don’t do anything.

Instead, this spring break I devoted 7 days to purely RELAXING. I wasn’t allowed to work on or think about anything CS related. It was wonderful. I read 7 books, watched 7 movies, and got at least 7 hours of sleep every night. I hung out with my sisters, went to the roller rink, went to one of those places you paint pieces of pottery, baked cookies, and frolicked in the backyard. A perfect vacation. It was lovely and I felt more at ease than I had in years. In fact, after the 7 days, I happily sat down at my desk and finished a project for class and started working on a personal project I had been mulling over for a while. The wonders of a rejuvenated mind!

I can’t believe I waited so long to deal with this matter. Learning to properly relax is more than just taking a break from work. It’s also about not feeling guilty for taking a break, which is what truly calmed my mind. In the end, that helped me be more productive than constantly worrying about what I could be doing and trying to muscle my way through work! 

Happy Thursday :) 

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