Smell the Roses: 4 Tips for a College Student on Starting Spring with More Appreciation

Make time to read for pleasure. I think this is really important especially for the college student who already reads a lot in her classes. Professors have us read Marx, Macchiavelli, Zhuangzi, Plato, all of the these great thinkers from whom we can learn something about society and our own lives. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying reading those texts aren’t pleasurable. Rather, reading philosophical texts is like exercising. We grind our way into the logic of great thinkers, break a sweat over what exactly each word choice is about, and every once in a while, we suddenly catch our breath because we’ve discovered something extremely valuable in what these thinkers wrote. The deciphering process is painful, but all for that one ah-ha moment that humanities majors basically live for. It’s like that feeling of a post-run calm after pushing yourself for three miles.

However, reading for pleasure is a different kind of joy. You savor each word of the book you are reading, not minding if you lose yourself in it, not minding if you discover personal connections with the characters in the book. Instead of a three-mile run, pleasure reading is more like a nice stroll in the park, where you have the energy to take in picturesque views and smile at little children playing on the swings. This winter, because I took too many units for my own liking, I did not have time to read books for pleasure, and therefore I literally felt my soul was deprived of something. Starting in the spring, I’m challenging myself to dedicate at least half an hour for three times a week to dive into pleasure reading. On the weekends, I can free up more time, be in a café or meditation center and just flip the pages for perhaps a good two hours.

Spring Clean. This tip is an oldie but a goodie. This entire winter I neglected really cleaning my room up. At times, I’d do my laundry, pick up clothing off the floor and what not. However, spring cleaning can be therapeutic if you set your mind in the right way. I like to take my time re-organizing papers, the surface of my desk, my closet, etc. I wipe down my chairs. Most importantly, I throw things away – this act of choosing which things of the past you want to keep and which things you want to let go of can truly boost your mood. I imagine myself making a playlist of relaxing music and just enjoying the transformation of my room from a trash-bin to an actually habitable place. For a big spring clean like the one I’m planning on doing after finals are over, I’d give myself a good half-a-day of time, allowing for plenty of breaks. (Homegirl doesn’t particularly enjoy organizing and cleaning and like activities.)

Go on a date – with yourself. This may sound cliché at first, but I think all college students undermine the importance of being alone – not lonely, mind you, alone. We constantly are bombarded with people, not just our friends, but other classmates, dorm-mates, professors, bosses, group project partners, club members, interviewers, tutors, you name it. New faces rush by our lives, and it’s invigorating to meet new people almost every week, but sometimes it becomes overwhelming and we don’t even notice that. We actually need quiet time with ourselves so we can re-engage our own thoughts and emotions, separate from external influences and “social clutter”, for lack of better words. This way, when we communicate with others, we really can listen to other people’s stories without being confused about our own.

I hope I can make all my “dates” both creative and meaningful throughout this season. These pockets of alone time can range from day trips to two hours in my favorite café, just journaling or blogging, taking ruthless selfies, perhaps drawing something random on my notepad while sipping on a tall glass of iced tea. Also, in the spring, I make an effort to have picnics where just pay attention to nature – I take nature for granted so often it scares me a bit. Generally, however my date works out, this time should slow me down and awaken me to my thoughts that usually just flutter on my mind then melt away, like unnoticed snowflakes.

Lastly, try to wake up earlier in the morning – at least twice a week. I’m not advocating “rise and shine” at 5AM in the morning. This is nearly impossible, especially for a college student like me who usually goes to bed post-midnight. However, waking up an hour before you normally a few times a week does wonders. The only two rules I’m going to set about what I can’t do in this precious pocket of time is 1) go on the internet and 2) do tedious schoolwork. Usually what I would do as a person who cannot live without good food is treat myself to a nice, delicious breakfast outside, picnic style, and slowly savor the food while reading a book I enjoy. Perhaps I can take a nice long shower and treat myself to a facial mask before applying my daily makeup. Maybe I could bring a cup of warm tea to a park or scenic area and just sit on the grass as I watch nature slowly wake up from its peaceful slumbers. At the end of the period, I can re-orient myself and prep myself for the day ahead by making a to-do list.

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