Yesterday at 4:15, I began three weeks of vacation from my classes. Usually a break from classes feels like a breath of cool crisp spring air after being inside for six months in the basement (not like I do that… that’s just what it feels like), but this time it didn’t. I’ve barely been in classes for five weeks, and my classes haven’t demanded all the much of me yet. Sure, some assignments, some participation and reading, but usually by this time in the semester, we’d be gearing up for midterms back at home. There would be a couple medium sized papers and a couple tests. There would be a bunch of events to go to and people to see and groceries to buy.
I don’t feel like I’ve quite earned this particular break. Or perhaps I should rephrase that. I haven’t earned it academically.
I forget sometimes how hard it is to be here. I just keep pressing on and loving things and forget how draining it is… because it’s all so good. But just because it’s good doesn’t mean that it doesn’t drain me dry.
I just realized yesterday, after five weeks of being in this seminar, that I’m the only native English speaker and American in that class. That doesn’t mean that they gang up on me or look at me much differently, but still, I think I feel the burden to represent the U.S. well and my faith and to break stereotypes if I can.
Everything requires more mental attention. Can I walk there? Can I sit there? Is that person staring at me because there’s something on my face or are they just staring? Oh, just staring. (People aren’t as abashed about that here) Am I walking too fast? Are they going to think I’m rude for walking past them? Do I look Austrian? Of course not. Do I sound Austrian? … just keep your mouth shut. Is this worth buying? Will it go bad before I can eat it? Gosh, everything’s so fresh. What’s that? And that? And that? My translator app isn’t working. I don’t know what this is, but I think I’m buying it.
That must be why, when I got home from a lovely all-you-can-eat breakfast with my friends this morning, I took a nap. It wasn’t the breakfast that wore me out (even though eating is a workout sometimes… this was definitely a workout). I just was tired. It’s not my typical learning exhaustion from books and papers and professors and jobs. It’s from taking everything in, from processing, from thinking, from planning, from interacting.
whew. But this is why we take naps and why I won’t feel guilty for taking three weeks off of school. Moby Dick will come with me, and that’s it.
This break will feel like a breath of fresh, spring, Austrian (and FRENCH) air. I’ll breathe deeply and take everything I can in.
And take naps.