In the spirit of the Jewish Holiday Yom Kippur this week, I wanted to take a minute to reflect. This holiday, also known as “The Day of Atonement,” is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. Yom Kippur falls exactly 10-days after Jewish New Year Rosh Hashana, as a day of repentance. Observant Jews fast for 24 hours and attend synagogue, followed by a hearty “break-fast” dinner. From a young adult’s perspective, I’d say it’s a designated time to reflect on the past year – the mistakes and the successes. It’s a day to apologize for your wrongdoings, but also to plan how you’ll improve in the months following.
Beginning my third year of university a few weeks before this holiday offered a much needed pause, but also added to my stress levels. While U of T accommodates religious commitments and my professors understood my reasons for missing class, that didn’t change the amount of assignments and readings that I was drowning in. While I knew the day-off would contribute to my well-being, I started to think about why even a religious holiday couldn’t force me to take my mind off of studying.
You’ve heard it before – university students are over-worked, exhausted and not communicating face-to-face anymore. Does that mean we’re doomed? Maybe. But does it mean we aren’t allowed to take a break? No way!
Since only 1500 undergraduates identify as being a Jewish – a mere 2% of U of T’s undergraduate student body– I realize that it might be hard to sympathize with a holiday that most students have never experienced. So, to simplify this dissertation on Yom Kippur, I’m going to trim this day of repentance down to the concepts of taking a break, evaluating your place and disconnecting.
I took the afternoon off and walked down to Trinity Bellwood’s Park. I left my cellphone and my watch at home. (This made it a bit difficult to keep track of time, but hey people survived before these items that we apparently now can’t live without.)
No Snapchats, no phone calls. I traded typing on a small keyboard into my virtual notes application, for a real-life notebook. I know, shocking.
A day has passed since this “mental break,” and let me tell you the effects were tremendous. In fear of turning my blog posts into self-help columns (getting dangerously close here), I did not find myself, or reach my inner soul through this process. Though this day did give me the opportunity to reflect and plan my goals for the year ahead. I always hated that exercise in grade school, but seriously it’s useful when at every family event your aunts and uncles pop the famous question “What are you going to do after university?”
So, if you take anything away from this piece, I hope it is someone just as stressed and confused as you, saying that it’s okay to take a break. To recharge, to evaluate, to budget, to dream, or just to think.
Until next week. -R