In this perplexing journey that we call life, it’s easy to get wrapped up in our own endeavors, sometimes to a point of detriment. When you set a goal for yourself (let’s say, trying to become an optometrist 👀) it makes sense to put your best foot forward and undertake that goal with all the fortitude you can muster. In spite of this, we’re sometimes so gripped by these pursuits that the desire to succeed suffocates us. In these instances, it’s necessary to take a step back and reorient ourselves. This became exceedingly apparent to me about a month ago when I visited a friend out of town.
Let me set the scene: Winter quarter had just ended. It was our break week. As any ICO student can attest, you’re feeling pretty drained at this point and want to temporarily purge your mind of school. One of my good friends from back home had recently moved to Milwaukee, so I saw this as an opportunity to visit him. Unfortunately, he was not available during break week. The next best thing we could manage was for me to visit the first weekend of spring quarter. I was very apprehensive about this, at first; I didn’t want to get too behind on any of my work. After some internal debate, though, I caved and bought my $20 Amtrak ticket to the land of dairy.
Being from the east coast, I hadn’t thought twice about Wisconsin in my life. So, I didn’t really have any expectations about Milwaukee. I assumed I would be thinking about school instead of fully enjoying the time with my friend. Quite the opposite happened.
When I arrived on Friday night, we drove into the city. My buddy showed me a relatively quiet spot with a nice view of the skyline. The big city lights and auditory stillness triggered a moment of introspection in me. There I was with one of my best friends from the same small town over 550 miles away, and we both somehow ended up living in big Midwestern cities. I started to think of all the places our lives had taken us in such a short amount of time. Being in a city I had no prior ties to gave me a blank canvas. I could paint it with whatever emotions I wanted, unfettered by any prior negative experiences. It turns out, I just needed actual physical separation from school to reestablish my mental equilibrium.
For the next couple of days, we took full advantage of everything Milwaukee had to offer. I had a blast. Even when I arrived back at my apartment in Chicago, I still had this residual feeling of bliss. This was a fascinating juxtaposition for me. Usually, when I see my desk in my room, I stress about all the studying I need to keep up with. Instead, I felt at peace. Right there I realized that your state of mind isn’t entirely determined by your environment; your attitude also plays a huge role.
If we get too absorbed by our own personal quests, we can end up neglecting other aspects of our lives. For me, I used to be so afraid to take time for myself because I saw it as taking my eyes off the prize. However, if you never take your foot off of the gas, you’ll burn out.
Now, what I’m not saying to do is to completely ignore your responsibilities. There is a time and a place for kicking back, so make sure you take full advantage of those times instead of psyching yourself out. Whatever you need to do to untangle your brain, go for it. Don’t stay submerged in the waters of your preoccupations forever, like me. Breach the surface, take a deep breath, and get out of your own head.