Taking a beat
In theater, a “beat” is a pause in dialogue, a silence meant to convey some shift in emotion or some other meaning. This morning, without realizing it, I took a beat for the first time this year. Even though I’m only a week into sophomore year, I realized, life at Columbia moves pretty quickly around this time.
My roommate was out at a dance audition, so I took my everything bagel and watery homemade coffee back to bed and just sat. I put on a song I’d been thinking about the night before and started reading the New York Times—not because I have the abundance of time one must seemingly have in order to read anything non-academic, but because the sun was just so fitting coming in the window, and what are Sundays for if not to read the paper in bed? Sure, I could have started my CC reading or answered emails or figured out what classes I’m taking, but that half hour would probably not make a difference in my entire week, let alone my whole life.
In the middle of an article about Syrian President Assad’s accumulation of chemical weapons, I had the odd realization that I felt, for the first time in a while, like myself. It was one of those realizations where the verbal articulation of the feeling comes before the understanding of its meaning. As my tiny clip-on fan blew poppy seeds into my lap, I wondered, why have I never done this? Not just sat and read the news in bed, but given myself a tiny sabbatical from life and been alone?
For some reason, I’ve noticed, often the times we give ourselves to be alone are times when we’re low, frustrated, stressed. Why don’t I ever hear from a friend that she took a long walk in Riverside Park to soak in a good feeling? Why is it that the only times I’ve put in my earbuds, put on some Matt Nathanson, and walked to Westside have been occasions when I’ve felt down or lost?
I’ve made several private resolutions for this academic year, but the one I think and hope will really last (unlike my “daily” “exercise” plan) is to take a true scheduled break from everything, just once a week. Not just to ignore one task to focus on another, but to take a real “beat,” to wander into a piano room and see what I can play from memory, to make a fancy dish, not for my roommate or for Instagram, but for myself. We talk so much about stress culture and mental health on this campus, but maybe once in a while the answer isn’t in doing something, but in doing nothing.
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