When I was visiting one of my professors during office hours a few weeks ago, she asked what I had going on aside from her class. After telling her what I've got going on this semester in a decidedly rambly fashion (and maybe with a hint of exhaustion and an involuntary eye-twitch or two), she suggested that I might be a bit over-stimulated. Looking back on the first half of the semester, during which I wrote exactly one blog post, I think she might have been on to something.
It feels a bit odd to say that because, compared to a lot of people I know, I feel like I don't have a lot going on.1 My regular commitments this semester are the following:
- Intermediate German MWF 11-11:50
- Glaciers, Ice Ages and Climate Change MWF 1:30-2:20
- Women's Fitness - TR 9-10:30
- Literature and Exile in Spain and Latin America - TR 1:30-2:45
- Translation Seminar - TR 3-4:20
- Beginning Swedish - Sat 4-5
- Collegium Musicum MWF 4:30-5:30
- Nothing But Treble five hours per week
- Lifeguarding typically four hours per week, but it varies
In addition to that, I was also working on study abroad applications during the last few weeks of the semester. Plus there was the obvious stuff like doing homework (so much homework), trying to go to events, hanging out with friends, and generally trying to be a normal human being. And that's not even taking into consideration how stressful the events of the past couple of weeks have been. Although I am not part of any of the targeted groups, the environment on campus in recent weeks has not exactly been conducive to productivity, clear thinking, or stress reduction.2
So I think my professor might've been right when she said that I'm over-stimulated. Try as I might, I can't really spin that positively, but I do think that I've learned something important about relaxing because of it. Simply put, as much as I love my laptop and my iPhone, mindlessly browsing the Internet is not the same as relaxing. Without my noticing it, I've spent more and more time on tumblr, twitter, and the internet in general as my college career has progressed, and after the past few weeks, I've decided that progression has to stop. Now I obviously won't be swearing off the internet any time soon, but I've decided to make a conscious effort to reduce my "screen time" and do other things to relax instead.
Since I'm nothing if not helpful, here are two things I've been using to relax (with an unintentional theme of Northern European minimalism).
I've been on a major Arvo Pärt kick for most of the semester. I think I like that his music has a lot of pathos, but somehow it doesn't require all of your attention - I enjoy Pärt just as much when I'm studying as I do when I'm seeing it performed onstage. Something about the music gives you space to just be. I know that's a kind of hippie thing to say, but heck, I go to Oberlin. If "Cantus for Benjamin Britten" is too sad for you, I'm currently listening to the CD "I Am The True Vine," which includes a song that Collegium will perform at its next concert!
I've also been reading a lot of poetry this semester in order to find poems to translate for class. Since most of my translations have been from Spanish to English, I've found a fair amount of Spanish poetry that I like, but I think my greatest discovery came from an assignment for which we had to translate a poem from a language we don't know and work with a fluent speaker. With the help of one of the girls who teaches my Beginning Swedish class, I decided to translate a poem by Tomas Tranströmer (the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2011) after devouring two books of Tranströmer's poetry in one night (in translation of course). In my opinion, a really beautiful short poem takes a mood, breaks it down, and crystallizes it in a way that no other work of literature can. After reading a beautiful poem, one like "A Winter Night," "The Couple," or "From March 1979," I'm left with a feeling of calm and rest that makes me think that I need to read poetry more often.3
I ultimately chose to translate "Spår" from 17 Dikter, his first book of poems.
Tracks - Tomas Tranströmer
Two o'clock at night: moonshine. The train has stopped
out in the middle of the plain. Light points in a far off city,
flickering cold at the edge of sight.
As a person gone into a dream so deep
that she'll never remember she was there
when she returns to her room.
And as someone gone into a sickness so deep
that all his former days become a few flickering
points, a swarm,
cold and feeble at the edge of sight.
The train stands completely still.
Two o'clock: strong moonshine, few stars.
It's not perfect, and if you're interested in other translations, they're out there and easy to find (just google "Tranströmer Tracks"), but this one is mine, so I feel a certain amount of attachment to it.
Here's to more real relaxation and less stimulation for the sake of stimulation for the next half of the semester!
1 This is a subject for another day.
2 This is actually the understatement of the year, but I have tried and failed to write about the recent hate-related incidents many times. Luckily, my cohorts are eloquent and lovely and have documented and reflected upon them much better than I've been able to.
3 I actually talked about this on an episode of blogger emeritus Harris Lapiroff's radio show, The Second Page. But even if you're not interested in hearing me talk about poetry, you should listen to this episode anyway because other people (including Ida and Ma'ayan) contributed really interesting stories.