Let me briefly explain the practice rooms at the school I attend.
At the beginning of the semester, you preemptively spend about $80 for a slip of paper that fits in your wallet (I say preemptively because it gets deferred to my student loans). You bring this slip of paper with you into the basement and hand it to a person sitting alone in a small room with only a window looking out to you. This person gives you a thick plastic card that is about the size as the slip of paper, and you go find the particular room that the card opens. The middle of the day is “rush hour,” when so many students are practicing that your card gets put in line, and the person inside the room waits for someone to return their card before speaking through a microphone and calling your name. This could take two minutes, it could take twenty.
It could be the only word you ever hear them say.
But if you don’t promptly get up and get to the window to get your card, they will call your name a second time. If you still have not made it because a cluster of cello players waiting for rooms had impeded the hallway with their instruments and giant ear training textbooks written by the professor upstairs, they will proceed to the next slip of paper in line. When they call the next name, you might get the opportunity to hear two words instead of one. But you would have much preferred to hear just one, because now you have to wait some more.
Today while I sat waiting for my $80 slip of paper to work its magic, I squeezed and crinkled my plastic water bottle to the jingle of thousands of dollars a year spent (preemptively) in this basement. A violinist got her practice room, dropped her instrument and music inside, and left down the hallway towards the coffee shop in the next building. Crinkle crinkle, jingle jingle, wait wait, da capo al fine.
It was at this point, fully immersed in my water bottle, that I noticed what it said on the plastic: “Best When Used By Jan. 2013.” The water that came inside my water bottle would stay completely normal and drinkable until after I graduate from college. Was this new knowledge supposed to make me happy? Because the result was more akin to discouragement. I will graduate in two years. And two years is a long time.
I have never been one to worry about the future to the extent of meriting my Facebook status. But at the rate — nay, the intensity — that my collegiate experience has been, the sound my brain makes is more and more like the sound of a crinkling water bottle. Best When Used By Graduation. Get as much out of me as you can before I end up in the recycling. We won’t be young forever.
There exists an idea that we “need time to recover.” This is viable in many ways. However, I am convinced that it is a psychological recovery rather than physical one. We seek a change to refresh our enthusiasm and self-esteem. The need to “recover” is, the more I ponder it, a first-world idea. Where else would Earth’s people consider stopping their work or their education because they are tired? They work to eat and to afford to learn, and they learn to afford a better life. The question is, can they be happy too?
Let me synthesize my ideas. We pursue careers based on that which we enjoy. Yet, in our culture, we value the notion of rejuvenation from hard work. Do you see the contradiction?
“Rejuvenate” comes from the Latin word juven, which means “young” (and in Spanish, the word for “young” is joven). So, etymologically, “to regain youth.” In our culture, my age is considered young. If I had lived one or two hundred years ago, I would be admonished for not having a child or two already. But every day, the need to rejuvenate arises. To re-youth-ize. Rejuvenecerse.
Again, do you see the contradiction? It’s as though we’re telling ourselves that we made a mistake, and we need to try again. Why should we re-discover youth? Did it go wrong the first time?
Because of how much we work, we can no longer find what makes us happy within that work. We are not young, but we can be satisfied. We work for paper slip educations. We rejuvenate for crinkled water bottles. And while the tuition preemptively jingles, we have the capacity to be content.