It is often said that life is full of guilty pleasures. I’m sure you can think of some classic ones: the tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, that collection of 90s pop music or some ridiculously long Starbucks order you can get (uncyclopedia reliably informs me that it’s a Double Ristretto Venti Half-Soy Nonfat Decaf Organic Chocolate Brownie Iced Vanilla Double-Shot Gingerbread Frappuccino Extra Hot With Foam Whipped Cream Upside Down Double Blended, One Sweet’N Low and One Nutrasweet, and Ice). However for me, the guiltiest of all pleasures, especially for a university student, is the simple act of doing absolutely nothing of any value whatsoever and ashamedly it’s something I have recently experienced, and one I’m sure most of you will have experienced especially in the long summer holidays.
Taking a break and having ‘chillax’ time is good, and in fact very necessary especially after a long 10 weeks at a hospital that I have to commute a total of 50 miles every day for. Added to that the additional pressures of performing in 2 concerts, editing 3 issues of a newspaper, giving a tutorial to second year medics, marking keen A-level students’ BMAT essays and the numerous 21st birthday parties that comes with the 3rd year of university it is no surprise that you can feel a bit burnt out. A huge sense of relief comes after getting ‘signed off’ by your consultant for your first hospital attachment and mentally and physically, you are ready for holidays. Then you find out that you have 3 more weeks of lectures left…oh dear. The good news is that there is a weekend between the end of firms and the start of lectures: perfect time just to ‘take a chill-pill’ and have some good old relaxing time.
Now, having been on the insane warp-speed driven conveyor belt that is a medical student’s life, it is quite a surreal feeling to step off the belt and walk at normal speed for once. You are so used to everything going at such as fast and furious pace that the sudden slowness of a day off literally hits you like a door that you’ve just ran into, expecting it to open but only to find that it opens the other way (something I definitely…err…haven’t done before). Once you’ve recovered, you become an stationary observer, witnessing all the other people rushing about and trying to stay on the conveyor belt. To start with, you stand there and look back at the conveyor belt with some satisfaction. The satisfaction that comes with being on, surviving and being able to jump off the belt all in one piece. The satisfactory feeling gradually subsides, only to be replaced by a sense of envy. You start to miss the rush, the pace and the frenzy of life on the belt. You secretly wished you were back on the belt, although you are grateful that you’ve managed to escape it. Suddenly, an internal battle starts within your mind of whether or not to rejoin the belt: you really do NEED the rest but it looks like so much fun there! Finally, a massive wave of regret hits you. You DO really want to throw yourself back into the life that you’ve escaped from. In fact you actually feel guilty at having left it in the first place and what’s even worse is that the people who’ve stayed on the belt have move that little bit ahead of you, and you have to work even harder to catch them up. You feel even more regret at taking the time off especially since university students are at the very peak of their human condition, both mentally and physically. It is such a shame to see this time wasted on a day of doing absolutely nothing at all.
Everyone gets those days where you literally answer everything, both mentally and verbally with ‘cba’. It is a standard part of the classic ‘allow/CBA’ culture that is a student’s life (see blog post ‘Allowing it’ http://www2.imperial.ac.uk/blog/studentblogs/ken/2011/07/12/allowing-it/).The regret of having been so unproductive is clearly evident the day after, where an additional layer of madness is added to an already manic day through you trying to make up for the day before. The regret is even worse when your day was intended to be productive but in fact ends up with an Youtubing binge. However, the guilt is dampened when it comes with a day of intentional rest. Breaks are good and it is a pleasure to be enjoyed, albeit guiltily. Just remember that after the rest, the relaxation and the recuperation, in the words of President Bartlet on the ‘West Wing’: “Breaks over” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZvgSgpjkWU).