Aim For More Reflection, Less Riff Raff This Spring Break

For
the average college student, the phrase “spring break” undoubtedly conjures up images of
bikini-clad women dancing on beaches, blended and frozen alcoholic drinks and
anonymous peers partaking in shared revelry—a week off from school, a
week away from stressful campuses and crushing amounts of commitment. Some of us may spend upwards of $1,000 on a combination
of airfare, all-inclusive resort stays and bar tabs during our weeklong
getaways.

As
our flights from Ontario and LAX take off, we will dream of waking up in places
as warm as or warmer than Claremont. But what really awaits us at these destinations?
Will we truly find the inebriating nirvana that has been immortalized in every
existing narrative about spring break? (Let’s not forget Spring
Breakers
, the 2012 film featuring the stellar acting of Gucci Mane and James
Franco.)

In
many cases, these ‘vacations’ won’t really
be the physical and mental breaks that they are meant to be, but rather a
continuation of a lot of the hedonistic behavior that fills up our spare time during the school week,
from late Thursday night to early Sunday morning. Granted, if you are not hurting anyone
else, fun on the weekends is not necessarily bad, and neither is a spring break
chock-full of it. The key is in finding a balance and using our week off productively. Allowing ourselves an actual break from social, professional or academic pressures provides an opportunity to refocus on other parts of our personal development.

Frankly, we college students tackle a lot on an everyday basis: We consistently challenge ourselves to be well, learn more and do good.
Undoubtedly, the concept of stress is relative to the individual, and what releases cortisol for
one may not release cortisol for another. 

Here, I refer to the “hierarchy of needs,” a concept that psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote of in his essay A Theory of Human Motivation. This is a model
that places physiological needs at the bottom of a pyramid and builds upward in levels with safety next, then love/belonging, followed by esteem and topped with self-actualization.

The hierarchy of needs plots the
steps needed to fully develop and blossom into who you truly
are, something that often happens during our college years. Our four years serve as a
window of time when unparalleled growth can occur. In what other context are
you given the privilege to think about thinking for four years and have it considered a perfectly acceptable use of time? Unless you plan on becoming a
monk, you will not be given this level of freedom from real responsibilities
ever again. 

The tragedy lies in the idea that you may think you are fully
exploring all depths and corners of yourself, when in reality you may only be
skimming the surface in the midst of aforementioned stressors. With this psychology in mind, the activities of the spring breaks we have planned
don’t always
lend themselves to diving into the abyss of self-actualization. 

Nonetheless,
spring break is meant to be what the name implies, a break from the minutiae of
everyday life. So yes—take it easy and let loose, but keep the hierarchy of needs in mind. There is no better time than the present to start checking off each pyramid level toward better understanding your identity, relieved of the attention-hogging distractions of everyday life.

It’s important to acknowledge that some aspects of our imminent spring ‘break’ trips aren’t really breaks at all. In fact, there is danger in treating every free moment like a jailbreak. This kind of escapist behavior breeds intemperance and impedes mindfulness, self-reflection and self-awareness. 

I’m not saying a little unbridled revelry once in a while is bad or entirely unproductive—after all, it can be a way of
celebrating life. But if the festivity occurs alone and without consciousness, are we digressing on our path to self-discovery?

As you take time away from school, I encourage you to reach some mental clarity outside of the restrictive walls of these institutions. Amend your itineraries to include a real break. Carve out time for yourself to walk
away from your friends and find a spot on the beach or the party house, your
actual home or a quiet corner of campus, to be alone.
Do not be afraid of the silence. Embrace the chance, the break, to reflect upon yourself as a whole, and think about why you are really here and what you’d like to accomplish by the end of your four years here: and then, please rejoin the party.

Taylor Lemmons CM ’17 is an international relations and legal studies dual major from Denver, Colo.

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