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A Mainer Abroad: Take time to find serenity and breathe

The manic winds of October are roaring outside the glass windows of Carleton University’s library. Literally roaring and howling — on my short walk it tried to rip my paperback copy of “The Dharma Bums” out of my cold hands. I saw a woman get blown over by it. Seriously, this wind is ferocious.

This is “reading week” at Carleton, and the campus is practically a ghost town. This is the time of the year things can start to get a little bone weary, and the administration here recognizes that most students need a week off. They can get away with it by calling it a “reading week,” although I have been guaranteed by my roommate that the only thing he would be reading this week would be the descriptions of television shows on Netflix.

Some people find solace in Netflix, which is just the type of thing I try to avoid. I can’t be idle like that without exploding. I’ve been too busy thinking about how just two months ago I was saying goodbye to my family, my love and saying hello to a whole new world. The parallels with my freshman year are seemingly infinite. The difference between then and now is that it took four years of university to prepare me for the experience I’m in now. If there was only one lesson I’ve learned it’s that I needed to be more patient. Things take time to happen in this life. Every feeling of angst, sadness and anger will pass if given some time.

One of my favorite authors, Hunter S. Thompson, said, “Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.” Don’t get frustrated with class, or that guy who doesn’t shower enough down the hall from you. Take time to read, work out, breathe and eat: it’s not a competition of who can shovel more fried eggs off their plate and into their mouth. Taking time for ourselves keeps us from getting burnt out. It’s impossible to sprint through four years at the University of Maine, so pace yourself. My lecture is done, but I hope you enjoyed the lesson. I’m trying to heed it myself.

November is my hell month. I have seven presentations, two tests, three papers; studying for my Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) and then taking my GRE, and figuring out the course registration for my final semester at UMaine. To top it off my grandmother is visiting me. She insisted that she just wants “to see the castles!” I have yet to tell her that the only royal castle in North America is the Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City. She won’t be disappointed, though; Parliament is pretty spectacular.

With all that on my calendar I have less than two weeks before I’m going to be staring at my supper, typically a peanut butter sandwich, soul searching and asking the important life questions like “why does the bread taste different today?” Banality is the monotone friend of survival.

This past week I’ve been trying to redefine my spirituality as an Atheist-Catholic. Perhaps I’ve just been reading too much Jack Kerouac, a Bodhisattva-Catholic. I’m not on a path to enlightenment, though, I am trying to treat people right even when I feel disheartened. Sometimes I find that a revised serenity prayer helps “grant me serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to always know the difference.”


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