I spent fall break in a small Minnesota town that dusts the Canadian border. Nestled between pine trees and cornfields, Warroad, Minnesota proves the “Minnesota nice” that comes with the northern U.S. saying, “Top of the North to you!”
With friendly inhabitants, a quirky thrift store or two, and a small taco shop, my time spent with my best friend’s family was well spent. Her family lives in a beautiful house surrounded by fields and a vast expanse of skyline. Every evening, brilliant orange ignites Warroad’s horizon, and while we were there, a light snowfall—typical for northern Minnesota this time of year—powdered the sparse oaks of mid-October.
Living in St. Paul, I rarely experience the gentle lifestyle that my friend’s family lives. My world is filled with the noise of city living and plenty of college stress. From bustling homework to events to job and apartment hunting, nothing stops. And it’s stressful.
Where the stress comes from…
Part of my stress comes from the carpal tunnel I developed in both hands over the summer. Long story short: I used my hands too much by juggling writing and a 40-hour office job, and it cost me. Now an arthritic throb in my hand muscles, the pain is ever-present when I write too much on a keyboard, and the creak of too-weak fingers slows my pace when writing or editing my novels.
The other part of my stress comes from graduation. I graduate from college this December, and the fear of post-grad life is debilitating. Where will I live? Where will I work? Those questions burn unanswered, with only possibilities on the horizon. Theoretically, I know everything will be okay, but even though I’m trying to trust in God’s plan and have confidence in my ability to work in the field of technical writing, it’s the unknown that traps me. The great “what-ifs” of college that many a senior faces.
But this fall break, I took a break from all that stress.
Away from the packed classrooms, the late-night homework sprints, and the full days of class and work, I rested. I made pizza with a wonderful family and friends, carved pumpkins for Halloween, and watched movies like Nacho Libre and Penelope. All in my own time, without the stress of a schedule to bind me. For me, time was enjoyed rather than spent.
It is moments like these that remind me I need to rest. The lifestyle I live in the city is that of a marathon runner, always trying to reach some goal, some achievement, some deadline.
And even with writing, I stress myself into a corner. I have two ongoing novels, one I’m editing and one I’m writing. With these creative responsibilities, I set goal after goal after goal after goal. This is great for completing projects, but sometimes I get so caught up with my goals that I spend all my time worrying about how to complete them. And if I don’t meet those quotas I set, I ride the guilt trip train and stress out about all the things I haven’t done.
Sometimes it’s when I’m not writing that I feel most like a writer.
I didn’t write at all this fall break, and it felt amazing. I merely observed the world and everything around me. I rested in the glory of a pine-scented backyard and a sunset of embers. Sometimes it’s when I’m not writing that I feel most like a writer. It’s in the way I can be the outsider, the surveyor. To experience the glory of this world and watch others experience it as well is often my greatest inspiration.
With winter almost upon us (or mostly upon us, for some poor Northerners), I urge you to take time out of your day to rest. Do something that makes you feel guilt-free or well-rested (preferably both). Sometimes you just need to take a moment to be present in an incredible, living world—and that in itself is enough.