I guess my main question is what's wrong with me?
I should explain. I just finished my first semester of college. Now, there were some areas—such as leaving my room, taking care of my body, and doing fun things—in which I admittedly didn't thrive. But in terms of adhering to schedules and doing well academically, I dunked it. I set writing schedules so that I would have at least two days to edit my work. No project was done entirely the night before. I'm claiming the semester as a victory, even though I did little outside the realm of academic labor.
But then again this situation is fairly standard for me. Ever since the intense claustrophobia and feelings of imminent failure that are so entwined with public schooling turned the key to the ignition of my anxiety, life has truly been a string of project-filled days. I came home, cracked my knuckles, and set to work. And when things got tiring, I thought forward to the next break—the free period, weekend, or extended break—that would give me relief. Then, I thought, I would be able to come up for air. So often I was working towards the promise of relaxation. But I would arrive upon the promised period and inevitably spend this "break" either working on something that felt of colossal importance, or doing an assignment that was emphasized as colossally important. So, because I'm me or because of my school county or because of some combination of both, vacations have never been that.
But now that I'm in college the stars have aligned so that the semester ends before I arrive home for winter break. That is to say no one has the opportunity to assign me any soul-crushing work, because I'm in a strange liminal space in which I don't belong to any classes or professors. This winter break is the first free and open block of time I have experienced since before I was seized into the gnashing jaws of scholarship. This is my chance to do whatever it is people do when they have this weird and unexpected thing called freedom. (What do people do? Should I dress differently? Should I call someone? Should I call everyone?) This vacation has the potential to be the fabled break I've worked toward but never reached.
And for the most part I've spent it twiddling my thumbs and looking anxiously for something to do.
That's right, I got home to my house that is a warm embrace and a peaceful refuge, finished my imminently due projects for semester one, and then, in that unfamiliar freedom, was desperately bored within seconds. Literally seconds. And literally desperate—the dropping in my stomach was similar to the sensation that accompanies finding out a terrible truth. I eyed the carpet and, wondering if this was how I was how I was going to feel for four weeks, felt like the physical embodiment of souring milk.
At school I masterfully kept to my schedule. Now I sleep through twenty-one alarms, wake up at 10:40, and get one thing properly finished before I look at the clock and it's 2:30 a.m. and really time to stop for night don't you think. All this before the backdrop which is the slow but constant and excruciating passage of time, which is like a whispered threat in my ear.
Vacation is terrible. And unmanageable and overwhelming. I am restless and anxious and I feel the diminishing of time like a whispered threat in my ear, my sense of ineffectiveness competing horrifyingly with my urgent sense of having to accomplish something before I run out of time and am slammed into that refreshing but exhausting academic rigidity once more. It's only when I'm free of the schedules and structures that have characterized my life that I realize how much I rely on them, not only to budget my time, but to ensure my time is completely and utterly filled.
I have many frantic questions. Why can't I achieve anything independently of a schedule that is handed to me? Better yet, why do I feel I have to achieve anything? Have I been conditioned to subsist on a certain level of tension and anxiety? If I am anxious within a routine and anxious without, is there any possible situation that can slow the silvering of my hair? Because the reality is that now that I've arrived upon the vacation I've always been waiting for, I have no idea how to cope with unstructured time. I don't know how to make myself useful and productive in a non-harrowing context. And it feels lengthy and ineffectual and bad.
And so for my final, sad sack question: am I doomed never to do vacation? To feel choked by these imposed breaks? I feel so much pressure to do something useful with myself, and so paralyzed, as always, by the pressure.
It would be interesting for these few weeks to be what they are supposed to be. I wonder what effect that would have on me. Would I feel the tension melt from my shoulders, and feel my head clear? Would I feel free from obligation? I don't know, and I really can't imagine.