This summer I am perfecting the art of the loaf.
The verb, that is: to loaf. I have been loafing on the sofa, I loaf in the park, I will loaf at the beach, et cetera.
I am waitressing, I am making friends with my nephews and nieces, I am doing my tax return, I am reading books … I am busy enough, but I am not really achieving anything. I’ll be off to travel and roam free soon but, until then, I am firmly in my peanut butter-coated comfort zone.
This lifestyle was a conscious decision. Everyone was graduating or applying for their internships and generally making plans and timetables, and I said, “No! I shall be purposeless! I shall roll around in English meadows and attack this year’s backlog of sleep deprivation!”
I decided I was making a defiant call against ambition and pressure and expectations. I’ll go back to my inner hippy, I thought.
Because, in all honesty, I wanted a bit of a break. When I arrived at Penn I was rather bowled over. The work isn’t necessarily harder; it’s just that expectations are higher for just about everything.
I got a B on my first ever essay here — solid, comfortable pass, I thought, but then my tutor made me rewrite it. Everyone I spoke to seemed to be running three societies, four start-ups and writing code. If you have an idea here, you turn it into an app; if you see a problem, you start a new community service program. And you must make the most of everything: fall break, spring break, Friday night. Free time is not for sleep; it is for having fun and being creative and very cool.
Maybe it’s America, maybe it’s my university bubble back home, but what I know is that people do far more at Penn than I had anticipated when I arrived fresh off the plane. I thought you were all quite mad.
Then I realized it’s fairly impossible not to start trying to meet the bar. High expectations are infectious things, and Penn is like a petri dish in a greenhouse. I started realizing how many hours there can really be in a day.
By internship application time I was having the best year of my life, but I was also losing consciousness to the call of the doze in class on a daily basis. One professor made a particular point of stopping the whole class whenever this happened. I began to think that chronic sleep deprivation was maybe not for me.
“I need a nap really, really badly,” I thought. “Maybe I don’t want a stressful job.” And then: “Maybe I don’t need to be proud of my career. Maybe I just want an adult life where I have time to run around outside in the sunshine and sip cider in beer gardens.”
Well, it’s been a month or so since I got home now, and I have learned a valuable lesson from my summer of loaf. Loafing is not satisfying.
I can see you rolling your eyes. Yes, I’ll admit that I did always know this deep down. Pushing ourselves is immensely fulfilling; everyone knows that. Laziness never made anybody happy.
Still, I would like to use this little loaf life lesson to justify the lie-ins and hours spent mindlessly trawling the internet or staring into space.
I think boredom is important. I don’t know how much I like actually being on roller coasters, but I know that as soon as I get off, I want to get back on again. My plan is to get bored enough that I won’t have silly thoughts like “I want to stop being stressed and to go to sleep again” for a long time.
In the long run, really, my summer of loaf is totally going to be beneficial for my career prospects. Breaks are really for the greater good, my inner hippy tells me. Although, this time, I may have gone a little overkill.
Melissa Lawford is an exchange College junior from the University of Edinburgh studying English literature. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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