By Nick Rehmus
It says something about my personality that my first feelings when summer started were of guilt, not relief. I should be doing something, I thought over and over again. What am I forgetting? Life at Middlebury can be very high-intensity. The everyday hustle and bustle of classes and meetings, the semi-subliminal buzz of upcoming assignments, tests on the horizon. It’s enough rush and noise to make anyone feel, when you finally get that moment to relax, breathe, god forbid read a book for pleasure! that it’s probably only because you’re procrastinating or forgetting something.
And it’s weirdly addicting, that chaotic life. You get used to doing fifty, a hundred things in a day–small though they may be–and suddenly that’s what constitutes fulfillment. Productivity, efficiency. Checking items off a list.
And for all the advantages of being one of Foucault’s “productive, docile bodies” (you know, like landing a job and being a functional member of society), I think that the true, deepest fulfillment is that which marries this traditional engagement with something subtler, calmer, at once more self-centered and selfless. The ability to find happiness in just being. Can you be content just sitting in the sun, no people around, no distractions, nobody to report to? Because that’s a test all its own. It takes different skills than willpower and work ethic. For me, the beginning of this summer has been all about coming to terms with this second type of fulfillment. A bit more free time, a bit less stress. Certainly having access to beautiful forests and waterfalls helps. Relaxation and contemplation that aren’t cause for guilt or worry, but rather an essential part of being well-adjusted and happy in the long term.
I’m jumping back into stress-mode in July when I enter the world of Bay Area finance, so there’s a return to normalcy looming on the horizon. In the mean time, though, Middlebury is an achingly beautiful place to spend a small bit of time reevaluating, decompressing, and learning about myself. Here’s to a wonderful summer!