Contemplations from China: Rest and relaxation, my shameful guilty pleasure

matthew anderson study abroad columnMatthew Anderson/THE REVIEW
The fluffiest of my many distractions from my responsibilities.

Study Abroad Columnist

It’s an affliction I know all too well.

At the beginning of the semester, the excitement caused by a new experience abroad in China translated into high efficiency. I studied every night, I regularly went out to language exchanges, I went to the gym three times a week. I meticulously planned my time to capitalize on every profitable moment.

So why is it that now all I do is sleep?

They say the first step to recovery is to admit you have a problem, so I suppose I should just come out and say it: I’m in my mid-semester slump.

But how did I get here?

It’s definitely not something I’m unfamiliar with. At the university, my brain tends to take its leave of absence a little before Thanksgiving, somehow seeing the first fall leaf drop before I do.

It’s never been a serious problem, though. A few days of prioritizing Netflix and depression naps would lead to a high reduction in study time and then maybe a little guilt.

After uttering a few too many “I just can’t”s with friends, my brain wakes up and sends hormones to get me back on track. Then the following short break allows me to properly hibernate and come back with all of my previous glory.

Being in China seems to have thrown off my body’s response mechanisms; my languid phase has lasted a lot longer than usual. It’s not like I haven’t been through this before, though: I even went through it abroad twice. So what’s the difference?

Maybe I’m frustrated. I am, of course, recognizing the same causes of my semesterly breakdown here: normal burnout from too many commitments. But that’s not all.

I appreciate being corrected, but not being able to finish a sentence in Chinese class without an interruption from my teacher is getting old. My lofty dreams of artificially inserting myself into the Chengdu gay community for four months have not been entirely successful.

On top of all this, I sense my time abroad quickly burning away, anxiously (and maybe unsuccessfully) trying to balance the demands of Fulbright and summer internship applications as well as the urge to explore as many square meters of this city as possible before I leave.

Sitting here in a Corgi cafe, guiltlessly enjoying a slice of cheesecake surrounded by four dogs with legs too short and bodies too long, I’m starting to learn the importance of relaxation. The capitalist idea of exploiting every free minute of my time for a productive end can wait; right now, surrounded by friends (and cute dogs), I’m alive, and that task truly can wait until tomorrow.

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