Unplugging for a day can change your life

Photo by John Igieobo Student Publications

Like many of my fellow Jackets, my days are often spoken for weeks in advance, leaving little room for personal time unless purposefully scheduled into my Google Calendar.

In some ways, it’s rather comforting. 

You never have to worry about what you’ll be doing hour to hour, losing yourself in the rhythm of monotony makes the time pass that much quicker. 

You can jump from class to clubs, homework to dinner with friends and have an incredibly enjoyable, if not predictable, college experience. 

Living like this has been, for all intents and purposes, the story of my college experience and has defined my interactions with the greater Institute community for almost three and a half years. 

That is, until for the first time in quite a while, I decided to take a weekend to myself. 

There was no particular reasoning as to why I made the choice. 

As I’ve grown, I’ve found myself making decisions based less on logic and tedious pro-con lists and more on instinct and gut feeling. 

For the most part, it’s worked well and has led to a life more in line with how I feel about myself. 

So when the thought of taking some time to myself — free of friends, classes, homework and phones — popped into my head, I felt as though it would be just another decision that would be placing me more in line with my own goals and desires. 

I wasn’t entirely wrong, but it proved to be more challenging than I was suspecting it would be at first.

The first few hours were nice. I read some books, practiced some drawing and generally enjoyed my time. 

I had told myself I’d try to avoid mindlessly scrolling through my phone or getting sucked into a YouTube black hole and resigned to only watching the football game by myself. 

After a few hours of this, I found myself bored, sitting alone in my room with my thoughts. 

For the first time, a feeling crept over me that I hadn’t felt before but really struck me as something I should break down and analyze moving forward: I hated being alone with my thoughts. 

As it turned out, being without friends to voice my thoughts to or technology to ignore them was overwhelming. 

Thoughts that would have drifted through in passing became the focal point of my attention and served to magnify the doubts and uncertainties that had been easy to hide from before.

I don’t think I had been alone like this since I got a phone in eighth grade and was a completely different person after seven years. 

As a result, sitting alone and reflecting, I had trouble recognizing myself in this way. It was a part of me I really hadn’t had to face until now.

After a while, I reasoned that I needed to go on a run. I was certainly in danger of not completing my goal for the weekend, and it was day one! 

Running has always served as a release for me. The act is rhythmic, and is something to clear my head and focus my thoughts. In the moment, that was exactly what I needed to take a step back. 

And so I ran. And kept running. For about two hours, which was a record for me. And as I did, I was able to break down my thoughts one at a time, and reflect on them. 

The doubts became less overwhelming as I reasoned through them, and the uncertainty faded as I reaffirmed my plans and goals for the future in spite of not having every answer at the ready. 

As I finished, I felt better and promptly ate and showered before bed to put a close on an unpredictably exhausting day.

The next day was more of the same, but I felt better about myself. 

As I completed chores and watched the football game, I found myself able to think much more critically about the thoughts that seemed so overwhelming just a day before, and came to a conclusion about the events that had transpired a day before. 

For so long, I felt as though I had been using my phone and easy access to friends as a way to ignore my concerns and numb my thoughts. 

They never went away, they just became harder to hear, and by extension, easier to ignore. 

But facing them head on, while challenging at first, served as a wake up call. 

I’m not one of those people who plans to preach complete isolation from social media and friends to truly know yourself. 

But I do find myself much more conscious of why I want to use my phone or talk to someone. 

Do I have a genuine issue that I need advice on, or want to plan something with friends?

Do I have something in my mind that I want to watch and enjoy after class to unwind? 

Or is it just easier to ignore my problems by numbing them with the interconnectedness we have at our fingertips? 

An important question that, over the past few weeks, has helped me to focus more on myself while finding more enjoyment in friends and entertainment. 

For those who may feel as though they’re numbing their thoughts and emotions in the same way that I was, I would encourage you to take a break, and find time to really feel the magnitude of them. 

While they will almost certainly feel overwhelming at first, over time, you’ll find a greater appreciation for yourself and a better understanding of who you are.