Vacation Time: Powering Down the Machine

Sometimes in college you have to be a machine. And I don’t mean that in a negative Terminator kind of way. In fact, an almost robotic persistence is a positive, maybe necessary thing in the university climate. When assignments, activities, and responsibilities pile up, you have to be able to focus in and accomplish your tasks without letting other things get in the way.

Everyone I’ve met at Drake has their own form of machine mode. Some hide out in the library for hours on end, others make to-do lists, more lists, then lists of their lists. One of my roommates listens to classical music to zone in while writing papers. Whatever the strategy, we all have the same goal: get things done. And in the midst of this noble pursuit of higher education, us academic machines can get a little intense. During finals week, you know just to leave others be, cause once you’re in the zone, you shouldn’t be bothered.

The problem comes when it’s time to disconnect, to relax. Right now, in the midst of winter break, I’m realizing that sometimes as easy as it is to slip into machine mode, it’s a whole lot harder to get out of it.  While I should be relaxing and enjoying family time, I still find myself organizing tasks, planning days ahead and scheduling hours of the day. Shopping for holiday presents became a mission and sending out cards with my family was a group project in which my co-workers were not quite as dedicated. And just like that, family fun became an assignment instead of a privilege.

So I’ve dedicated the rest of winter break to powering down. With no homework or papers or tests, I need to lean to enjoy some free time, outside of machine mode. I’ll sleep, refrain from making lists, and stop obsessively checking email. Then, in a couple weeks, when I’m back on campus, it’ll again be time to get things done. Now’s the time to relax, but I’ll be back. (Sorry, had to say it).

The Pros and Cons of Winter in Des Moines

The first time I visited Drake University, there was a beautiful blanket of snow on the ground. As I watched the students bustle by in their winter gear, I thought just how idyllic the campus looked on a brisk winter’s day. There was only one problem: it was spring break. Where I come from in St. Louis, springtime means warm weather. But as I quickly discovered, all of my meteorological preconceptions went out the window in Iowa. So, in the spirit of this jolly season, I present the unique challenges and advantages of winter in Des Moines.

The Olympics are coming up, so we took to the slopes for some winter athleticism.

 Winter Olympics are coming up. Clearly, I’m ready. 

Con- Baby, It’s Cold Outside 

If anyone tells you it’s not cold here, they are either lying or from Minnesota. Sometimes it’s so cold that my walk to class feels like a Dickensian orphan’s journey to find bread. And while my personal struggles may not exactly be as bad as Pip’s or Oliver’s, it’s so much winder in Iowa than it is in London. So, call us even in the difficulty department?

 

Pro- The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

Yet, all the cold does bring some beautiful snow and no shortage of winter activities. From all the festivals around town to jolly winter events on campus, winter in Des Moines can be an absolute blast. We even went sledding at a local gold course to celebrate the winter weather.

Con- Tenth Avenue Freeze Out

So maybe more like a 30th Street Freeze Out. But the point is that winter in Iowa may or may not ever end. Last year it snowed in May. May. Just one of many things we have in common with Game of Thrones is that at Drake University you also always have to be on the lookout for winter. Even if you think it’s over, the lesson is do not put your boots away till the very end.

Pro-Let It Snow

With the Iowa winter raging outdoors, there’s always an excuse to spend time inside drinking hot chocolate and watching a movie. I mean, not that I need an excuse. That’s just the crazy way I live my life.

Everyone has their own tally system for the pros and cons of Des Moines winter, but for me, the pros weigh out. I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into when I came to Drake, but every year, I embrace the joys of winter a little more. By the time I graduate, I bet I’ll even be used to it. I’ll also have quite the collection of winter scarves. So there’s that.

5 Stages of Finals

Sorry for the blog delay, folks! In a very meta-level manner, the posting gap actually exemplifies what I’d like to talk about: I got a little stressed. You see, last week, the horrifying, Tolkien-like creature known as finals visited Drake University.  Rising out of the fires of Mordor, finals attacked our once peaceful campus and ruined everyone’s life for a week. And, yeah, I’m being a smidge dramatic. But, as the saying goes, ‘tis the season for creating needless drama. Thus, I present my personal 5 stages of finals:

Denial

The weekend before finals, I was feeling pretty good. I walked past Cowles library, scoffing at the students already freaking out over their textbooks. Me, I don’t really take tests. I just had to write papers, and how hard could that be, really?

Anger

Turns out it was really hard. As the week progressed, the list of tasks began to pile up and I began to resent the caliber of my liberal arts education. If only I hadn’t learned so much over the course of the semester there’d be nothing for me to write about!

Bargaining

But the fact remained I needed to get things done. Thus, I bought some chocolate. Okay, I bought a lot of chocolate. I also created a foolproof plan whereby for every page I wrote, I would get to eat a chocolate. One bag of chocolates and a lot of blank pages later, I still needed to get to work.

Depression

I guess the chocolate and lack of sleep backfired just a smidge. Lying on the couch at 2 a.m., my copious notes and blank word doc in front of me, the task seemed impossible. I simply would not survive finals week. With half of a Drake education, I would just have to make my way into the world and do what I was good at: eating chocolate and complaining.

Acceptance

Thursday of finals week was my glory day, my underdog returns to claim the championship moment. And, okay, I won’t be winning any championships for the writing I did on that day, but I did get all my papers done. With no more time left to delay, I settled in and wrote until I was done. And let me tell you, after all the (mostly self-imposed) horrors of the week, it felt really good to be done. I was proud of the work I had done and all that I had learned. And maybe we can all just forget that that level of achievement took two bags of chocolates.