Column | Dec. 12

Taking a break

While trying (and failing miserably) to finish up an essay in the study room in Holder basement, I suddenly felt the urge to go to the bathroom. Right as I was about to return, my phone buzzed with a cryptic response “Don’t come back. Assassins.”

What had initially been a short trip to resolve a physical inconvenience had in an instant turned into a matter of life and death. Hiding around the corner, the machinations of my pursuers taunted me. I scanned left and right to find a way out, but the only means of escape was a narrow hallway. On one end was me trapped in an alcove, on the other was them waiting, poised and ready to take me out with one pull of the trigger. Running out of options, I retreated back into the bathroom and locked the door. Without gun or prox, I was trapped.

My plans of late night studying had now become plans of escape. Granted I wasn’t actually being hunted down, nor was it truly a matter of life or death, but rather a game of assassins. The game is relatively simple: You are given a water gun and a target to surprise and shoot, while avoiding others assigned to shoot you. When you kill someone, you acquire their target until only one person remains.

Despite it sounding extremely silly and ridiculous, it is much easier to get caught up in the moment than you’d think. Faced with limited options, the bathroom window was left as my last option. Something I would have never done under almost any other normal circumstance suddenly became a relatively simple and logical choice. I jumped.

As I fell out the bathroom window (which was only really a 2 foot drop), sprinting in a t-shirt and jeans through the snow and back to my dorm room, luckily finding someone kind enough to prox me back into the building, I felt a sense of liberation. Maybe it was the end-of-semester apathy or maybe it was exhaustion from a long week, however, it was nice to forget the stresses and pressures of daily student life.

Often times at Princeton, it is easy to feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders. Whether it is that pset due for class the next day, that obligation to attend an hour-long meeting or attending office hours in order to do well in class, life can sometimes feel extremely burdensome. And when we let it build up, the feeling of being overwhelmed comes up easily. However, one of the greatest things I’ve discovered on campus is probably the most counterintuitive to the work-oriented goal of college: Taking a break.

There are so many wonderful things that happen on campus, both planned events run by the school and student groups, and non-planned ones that happen among friends. Sometimes we get so caught up that we forfeit opportunities to see that visiting lecturer or go see a Fuzzy Dice show, opting to put work first.

Granted work is important, and I’m not suggesting that one should ignore it completely. However, when we place work as our sole priority, it slowly chips away at us. We become unhappier as we have to sacrifice more and more for our academic pursuits. Sometimes spontaneously stopping and enjoying ourselves can be good for us too. Unlike planned breaks, which we anticipate for weeks and often happen off campus, spontaneity on campus allows us to not only relax with friends, but also are much more enjoyable. By the sheer virtue of being unexpected, the experiences become memorable ones. Whereas planned breaks are the result of a final push after a block of concentrated work, random breaks are a surprise, giving us little time to form expectations or preoccupations.

More importantly, it can even make us more productive. After spending hours studying, taking a quick 15 minute break and then resuming work will often be so much more productive than trying to push through it and straining ourselves out in the process.

Some of the great memories I have made on campus have been from the spontaneous ones, where I decided to forgo my plans in order to spend more time with friends and having fun. Because 50 years from now, it’ll be stupid memories of me trying to jump out of the bathroom window, rather than staying up late to finish that pset that I will continue to remember.

In the end, a night of potential productivity rapidly digressed into a night of ridiculous escape plans and other shenanigans. But maybe that’s not something to be ashamed of but rather something I should occasionally strive for and embrace.

Benjamin Dinovelli is a sophomore from Mystic, Conn. He can be reached atbjd5@princeton.edu.

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