During the Easter break my family came from Spain to visit. After over a year and a half of living in England it was about time for them to see where and how I was working on my future and my personal development, both as a student and as an adult.
Countless times I asked them to come, and they always had some sort of excuse: your brother has football training and he is the only goalie or it is quite difficult to find a time suitable for all of us. I must add that we are somehow scattered all around: me living in the UK, my younger sister in Madrid, and my brother and parents in the Basque Country. Agreeing for an appropriate time is, indeed, a titanic task of indescribable pain. However, we somehow managed, but not without some sacrifices.
As a norm, I am a very organised person: I make lists of everything, I plan my week days in advance, I even need to know what I will be eating on Friday so my lunches are not monotonous. Borderline madness. Obviously, I transfer these – let’s call them qualities – to my student life. Studying abroad is fulfilling one of my childhood dreams, and I want to perform better than the best version of me.
Mix it all together and the result is a smoothie of pressure and exigency that drains out my energy. It is not healthy, I know, but this is what family and friends are for. Balancing free-time and a masters is not an option, it is a requirement. Most of the time students will see in those unused hours the words procrastination flashing with neon lights, but the truth is that it is compulsory for a good performance.
I am not suggesting that leaving essays until the night before or not doing the readings is the way to success, not even close. But I do know by experience that one day, or even a whole week during a break, fills you up with energy, clears your mind, and puts you in a better setting to face working again once the leisure time is over. It takes you out of the eye of the storm where you have buried yourself into, and brightens you up with fresh air. It feels like living in the very centre of a crowded, tall city that covers the sky and forces you to look ahead and ignore the sides, and then take a lovely, long, chilled walk in the mountains, the hills or the beach. I leave that to the taste of each one.
The point here is that my family’s visit disrupted my pre-made, pre-packaged, lists and time schedules. It absolutely messed my mind set up, making stress in advance because I genuinely thought that I needed every second of being awake to do readings, essays, literature reviews, the final project… The thought of seven whole days nowhere near a computer or the library resources scared me to a point where before their arrival I doubled the amount of time I was investing on my studying.
I have to emphasise that I am a study freak – please do not take me as the norm, because I am not. The thing is, that once the withdrawal syndrome passed and my system was clean of academic performance obsession, I enjoyed every second of my time with the Modern Family-like group of individuals that form my family. They dragged me out, and I could not have seen how important it was for anyone to take a step back and view life out of a bedroom desk on my own.
Without knowing it, they showed me the importance of having time for things other than just the postgraduate degree. Work will not disappear, and still will be extremely essential, but so is swimming up to the surface and breathing every so often. Surprisingly, I did not even think about the pile of readings I had yet to do. I was there, I was with my family, I was balancing life, and that was all that mattered.
They left, and I was able to write a whole essay in two days. One I am quite proud of, in fact. Guess it was the fresh air of our Seven Sisters walk.”