For your moderate madness, a mental break is the best medicine

I found myself eating Caesar salad with my fingers today while power walking through Rhatigan Student Center. That’s right- Caesar salad and fingers. Got that mental image? Wonderful.

I had just left the newsroom after leaving a class after leaving home, where I had just finished a huge project with a whopping 15 minutes to spare. I had six hours of work behind me, and eight more until I could return to my beautiful, abandoned bed. 

My mind whirred like bicycle spokes as I grabbed another dressing-soaked piece of spinach. Suddenly, I saw myself through the eyes of a passing janitor. 

“That girl is Class A Crazy,” I imagined him thinking with his eyebrows raised. “Is she too poor to buy a fork?”

No I am not insane, concerned janitor. I am simply a journalist. Like you, reader, I needed a mental breath. 

Other students are nurses who come home from double shifts to full loads of courses and laundry kindly left for them by their children. 

Other students are engineers struggling to pass Differential Equations (I have no idea what this means) while working 20 hours a week at NIAR (National Institute of Aviation Research) and surviving off QuikTrip burritos. Any student who knows what they want and is motivated enough to get it has the same story.

In my case, classes are basically hobbies by default. My main education happens in preparing, writing, editing and designing the paper in front of your nose. From the moment my alarm clock rings to when I fall asleep on my beautiful and abandoned bed, I am working on the paper with my talented colleagues and scrambling to finish late assignments. I’m sorry, non-prioritized professors. I can’t fit in much else.

Let’s rewind. Remember the crazed girl eating Caesar salad with her fingers in between a day of moderate madness? I realized that to keep my relative sanity until I graduate, I need to breathe. 

Because of my job, I can’t always afford to take a real mental break. I’m not going to sleep as much as I’d like. I don’t have time to cook healthy food. Yoga classes are out of the question. I can only limit my constant mental monologue to a dull roar. And I can breathe.

On days like these, some people have punching bags. Others feed pigeons. Some use comedy, like Jon Stewart’s “Moment of Zen” on the Daily Show.

For me, my greatest release is rolling down my window, cranking up my music (right now it’s Of Monsters and Men) and sticking my left foot out the window as I speed just a little. No judgments, please.  

But usually, it’s enough to remind myself that my worries today will be gone tomorrow. 

I take a breath that fills my lungs and lifts my chest as it reaches through the soles of my feet (thanks to my old yoga class for that sentence). And I exhale. And I inhale again until my mental chatter is down to a whisper. 

There will come a day when I sleep eight hours each night. I’ll wake up early only if I want to. I’ll read the paper over coffee, walk my dog and check on the llama farm I’m planning on buying.

This is not that day. Today I am busy, but I am also young. And frankly, I would take this moderate madness over any boring life of leisure. That is, as long as I don’t forget to breathe.