An examined life: Winter break edition

In retrospect, poor time management can at least be a learning experience.

Allison Fingerett

And weâÄôre back. Winter break has come and gone. How did it go? If youâÄôre anything like me, you spent a disproportionate amount of time watching âÄúJersey ShoreâÄù and combing the city for affordable drink specials. Winter break often feels like fitful sleep. You lie down with the whole night ahead of you, toss, turn and wake in a daze. âÄúNoon already?âÄù I turned 24 last week, which was a cruel reminder that my routine of waiting for life to begin is a self-perpetuating fallacy. Rather than chastise myself for having blown the only fleeting taste of freedom IâÄôll have for several months, IâÄôm trying to see past my stagnation and into the face of omnipresent learning. If you, too, are mourning too many minutes spent unwisely, let us ponder the unintentional lessons learned this way. Lesson 1: Social plans donâÄôt just magically happen. I told several people, quite sincerely, that we should âÄúhang out over break.âÄù But effort is required to set these wheels in motion. Time flies when youâÄôre sifting through old music libraries and wrestling with the idea of accomplishing something during viable business hours. So, as the end of break drew menacingly near, I made up for lost time and attempted to assemble everyone in one place at one time. Lesson 2: If you build it, they will come. People like being invited to things. People also like broadening their social networks by mingling with friends of their friends. With tools like Facebook, party planning has never been easier, and itâÄôs nice to know that people are willing to gather in sub-zero temperatures at your request. Just make sure to stay on budget, especially if your meeting place accepts credit cards. Lesson 3: Buying a round of drinks for everyone is only good in theory. This is a beautiful tradition for which IâÄôve been grateful, but IâÄôd like to return to more self-centered forms of payment at the bar in this economy. Sometimes the math is skewed, depending on the size of your posse. When it works in my favor, IâÄôm riddled with guilt; when it doesnâÄôt, overdraft charges are imminent. The forced restraint of what you can afford isnâÄôt all bad. Lesson 4: Alcohol is still poison. I guess itâÄôs no surprise that a depressant known for its ability to muddle memories would constantly trick us into thinking itâÄôs nothing but fun. However, please learn from my holiday love affair with the bathroom floor. When your stomach is churning, thereâÄôs no mistaking the presence of poison. ItâÄôs always cold, cruel and pathetic. But the narrow window of winter break provides the perfect excuse to try again and tread with caution two days later. After an excruciating New YearâÄôs Day, I affixed a Post-it note to my debit card that simply said, âÄúretching.âÄù It served as an excellent advertisement for moderation the next time I went out on the town. Such foresight and minimal effort are also useful in other aspects of daily life. Lesson 5: Use it or lose it. It seems like just yesterday I was patting myself on the back for having memorized a superhuman amount of factoids and conjugations of verbs in Hebrew. But when I pulled out my flashcards to revisit this sense of academic excellence, I realized the error of my ways. In a few short weeks I had forgotten almost everything and replaced it with intricate knowledge of MTVâÄôs programming schedule. LetâÄôs not kid ourselves, though. Given a choice between struggling to read aloud in a foreign language and sledding with childlike whimsy âĦ I donâÄôt need to finish that sentence. But planning ahead is necessary in some capacity to make things easier on your future self. Lesson 6: Do it now. Until apocalyptic prophecies become manifest, tomorrow is another day. But, believe it or not, tomorrow comes with its own set of rock-solid excuses. For two weeks I glared with deep disdain at a pile of mail that was sure to contain uncomfortable pieces of news. I let the fear of this pile live in the back of my head during any attempts at distraction. And when I finally forced myself upon the task at hand it took less than an hour, and I felt the unparalleled high of accomplishment. It is of note, however, that several issues addressed in those envelopes were severely complicated by my having waited to open them. So, while I hate to throw a proverb your way, why do tomorrow what could be done today? Lesson 7: This is it. Life is happening right now. It was happening when I was curled up on the couch with the shades drawn, reading the autobiography of Joe Eszterhas, screenwriter of âÄúShowgirls.âÄù But that was a choice, and it was fueled by the subconscious belief that winter break is some sort of purgatory, too saturated in expectations to ever amount to much of anything. I see now how wrong I was. When I posed the question, âÄúWhat unintentional lessons did you learn over winter break?âÄù on Facebook, I was met with several declarations of longing for a time when there was such a thing. Fortunately for all of us … Lesson 8: Break is a state of mind. Now that school has started, IâÄôve accepted that my bathroom will slowly decline in cleanliness until March. But why? Comedian Lucille Ball once said, âÄúIf you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.âÄù DonâÄôt mourn a long and lightly used to-do list. YouâÄôre busy now, and that breeds momentum. ThereâÄôs still hope of utilizing your free time like the precious gem that it is. And soon youâÄôll wake in a daze once again to a summer of similar complications. Allison Fingerett welcomes comments at [email protected]