My father had recently started working on a draining project at the office. He came home completely exhausted and late every night, arriving at around 12. Then he’d set up his laptop and continue working. When he wasn’t laboring on the project, he privately agonized about it. He grew haggard over the month, a mask of stubble on his unshaven face and dark bags under his eyes.
Two days before the deadline, he stopped; unfinished as the project was, he couldn’t go on any longer. He went out tree-climbing – a new passion of his –- with a local organization. Yes, tree-climbing – complete with ropes, harnesses, clips, and other professional paraphernalia. When he came back, he was different: enthusiastic and determined again, no longer wilted.
That one day off work enabled him to mold the project quickly and efficiently into a final product to be proud of. Just one day of relaxation and distraction from the constant presence of work brought this miracle about.
I loved those Kit Kat bar ads. People joyously brandish the chocolate bars wrapped in distinctive red, yelling the catchphrase, “Gimme a break, gimme a break with a Kit Kat bar!” Those delicious hunks of milk chocolate and wafers mean more to me than just a moment of sensory delight. Their slogan embodies it all – sweet release, escape; freedom, even for just a minute. I believe in the power of taking breaks.
What person could do without them? I know of assiduous scholars who labor diligently, hour upon the hour, day after day, but even they cannot cope with such a workload without any breaks. I don’t mean large-scale luxury resort cruises to Bora Bora or a 90 mile hiking trip in the Appalachians. A break can be short as a minute or as long as a day. Breaks are a time to recharge and replenish. There’s nothing better than a good break.
My dad’s best method of punishment, in my admittedly biased opinion, is making me take a break in order to “think about what I’ve done.” I don’t, but it’s a marvelous thing when wrongdoing leads to a five-minute banishment to the backyard gazebo for quiet contemplation.
The philosophy of taking breaks works very well when I am taking a test. I pause in the middle of a particularly potent panic attack, take a deep breath, gather my wits, and continue. The hiatus partially erases my fatigue and restores my will.
Once, during the important Advanced Placement examination for Human Geography last year, my brain shut down. I felt helpless, staring at the page in dismay, bewildered and stupefied. I couldn’t understand the questions. “I don’t remember anything! I can’t do this!” I thought frantically. The words and letters on the sheet danced before me, mocking and taunting.
I closed my eyes and put my head down. The cold surface of the desk seemed to inject strength into me. After a few minutes, I looked up again.
I was ready.