For most, summer is simply three months of free time looking for a purpose. For others, however, it is a busy time full of hopes, dreams, and plenty of activities. Between classes, homework, socializing, and exploring new aspects of our lives, those of us fortunate enough to attend Exeter Summer know it is an experience like none other.
Surrounded by the constant excitement and demands of summer life, it is often incredibly difficult to find the time and place to relax. This is especially true for those among us who truly strive to experience in such a short time all that Exeter has to offer. At the beginning of these five weeks, I felt that compared to other activities, relaxation was not only hard to do but usually a waste of time as well. But that assumption was recently challenged by a chair, some silence, and several squirrels.
Last weekend, a friend asked me to sit down with him by the Academy Center and “just chill” – in other words, think about nothing in particular. As we sat there silently, I noticed little movements around me, especially the squirrels which seemed to be everywhere on campus. While they are known for their hyperactivity, constantly searching for food and running from aggressive students, the ones we observed would often pause between their activities and lie on the concrete to rest. Feeling tired myself, I wondered if the seemingly endless energy of squirrels was that they simply took time to relax.
It is easy to say that you don’t have time to relax. But relaxation is not only an activity, though many activities incorporate it. I think it is a state of mind that can always be reached, no matter the time or place, and no matter how busy or stressed out you are. It requires nothing more than simply pausing for a moment to allow yourself a brief respite, or even sitting down and collecting your thoughts. To those of us accustomed to working under pressure, relaxing may not feel conducive to speed or efficiency—but it is certainly necessary for maintaining the long-term focus that is so essential for success.
But beyond the pressure that homework and our own initiatives can generate, we also need to think about how to balance our relationships with everyone around us. While interacting with others usually doesn’t feel like work at all, it can still overwhelm your life and cause plenty of chaos if you never slow down. It seems like social skills are only about how you interact with others—but it is also about how much you interact, and whether you can effectively maintain your own personal space.
As the final week of our time here approaches, it is very difficult to resist the urge to do everything at once, and lose ourselves in the overwhelming tide. So whether you feel the most important demand in your life is yourself or others, I challenge all of us to take a lesson from the squirrels, and just relax.