As someone who doesn’t care much for stereotypical fun college experiences —parties, Greek life, midnight excursions and the like— spending spring break alone doesn’t scare me. Getting the apartment alone to myself brought a manic smile to my face. I’m a verified hermit, to say the least. So I marched (or rather lie in bed) straight into spring break, confident that I would spend much needed alone time fabulously. And I made the right assumption.
Knowing the entire day lie open to what my whims dictated felt liberating.
Anyone who cares enough to label themselves an introvert and lives among a circle of the same knows every single one of us operates by different introvert rules. Some want the company of others but not interaction, others could party with the entire population of China as long as they get to leave and recharge their social battery after. Mine? I don’t feel completely private and at home until my room contains only me. No rhyme or reason exists for this (or maybe it does but I study English, not neuroscience). I only know that after months of continuously living beside someone else with no actual wall between us, seeing the rare state of an empty room seems like finding an oasis in a forsaken desert.
And at the start of my last spring break, that remained true. The empty room and the free time meant my TV and reading obsessions could find purchase. From noon till 3 a.m., I flickered between binging episodes, reading chapters and trying recipes beyond the capabilities of myself and my kitchen. Time stretched and slipped by, but I never particularly wished for anything else to happen.
Until on an idle scroll through Instagram, I started noticing how everyone’s posts consisted of the sparkling Mediterranean Sea or random hangouts with their wolf packs. Fun, namely.
Suddenly, I felt acutely aware of the lack of “events” in my spring break and memories of past holiday sloth intruded on my peace. On any holiday, same as that spring break, I would spend my hours migrating between the living room TV and Netflix on my laptop, watching shows and indulging myself in fictional worlds.
My friends and peers, who would often find some other summer obligation to attend to, jam-packed their free time with enriching experiences. And I didn’t envy them, because I treasured my free time and I didn’t believe that summer programs or classes I expressed no interest in should come before it. Yet every time my parents suggested I do something concrete during break, a storm rose in my head, fuelled both by indignation and shame.
Why must I do “something” during break?
Though the two situations aren’t really comparable, I still descended into a momentary crisis. Did I squander my valuable spring break time (and all the breaks in my life before) on meaningless things? If I organized an activity every day —head to a museum, write, go on a hike— would I feel better about myself? Would I be a better person? If all of these experiences came under my belt, perhaps I would break out of my chrysalis and turn from a crawling caterpillar to a soaring butterfly.
I sat and sulked. Cursed the world that none of my best friends lived near me (or even in the same state). Looked out the window and thought about how taking the transit to San Francisco annoyed me. Wished I could go back home where reaching places took far less time. Reached for my laptop and pressed the play button. Started laughing because The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel does that to me. Forgot that I got upset 15 minutes ago. Realized, a while later, that watching TV isn’t pointless. As I got up to cook after a few episodes, I traced the roots of my distress back to the big, hulking tree of “I didn’t even care in the first place.”
TV enriched me. As someone who wants to dive deep into crafting stories, it likely is one of the most enriching things for me. Though I don’t deny the need to get up and exercise, or breathe fresh air, and I truly wanted to see my friends, I also knew that I wouldn’t replace my pleasures with something else. I looked forward to spending a week with myself and my stories, and yet I let Instagram posts and unrelated (though valid) feelings of inadequacy stop me from enjoying myself.
If doing nothing harmed no one and helped me, why not do nothing?
I always felt like society treated free time only as purposeful time. Or to put it less favourably, extra capitalizable time. Throughout childhood, schools at home issued holiday homework every break. After school and on weekends, students travel back and forth between extra-curriculars; some of which they chose to attend, perhaps many of which their parents made them attend. Free time existed either as work under the guise of a different name or something to propel yourself forward for more work.
I wholeheartedly reject that. Activities express no agenda on their own. Whether they end up pointless or meaningful depends on how you choose to engage with them. I know from experience. Watching TV can teach you more than some classes if you think critically about what you consume. And a work experience can turn out a waste of time if your mind processed nothing. We don’t want to be zombies. The “nothings” of life can do far more than they seem, especially when I couldn’t see my friends or my family. So, go on, sprawl in bed under the afternoon sunlight. Put on some music and just vibe. It feels a lot like living.