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Fall break has once again come and gone. This is a much needed break that comes in the middle of our semester here at Juniata. It is a time of rest and relaxation… or it is supposed to be. You see, from the time we get here in August, to the time fall break begins, we as students have a lot of work. And work needs to be completed in a timely manner and, if possible, done well in advance of when it is due. If you don’t meet the deadline for an essay, or if you procrastinate believing that you will have more time later, your grades, sleep and social life will all suffer. Fall break is a moment, however brief, for us to take a breath and reflect upon the first seven weeks of the semester at what we have, and haven’t, accomplished, and look ahead to the things that we have yet to complete.
My fall break consisted of homework, studying for my biochemistry tests this coming week, sleeping and running. The first three I worked on for the first three days of break and they were for my sanity, so that in the coming weeks I might have slightly less work to do and could get slightly more sleep. The last took up about an hour and forty-seven minutes of my Sunday morning and definitely detracted a bit from my sanity. In August I decided to register for the Runners World Half Marathon held annually in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a mere three-hour drive from Juniata. You see I believed at the time of my registration that I would be able to fit in daily runs and workouts between classes, studying and work. But I sadly misjudged the amount of time I would actually have to devote to training, and a calf injury just made it that much harder to run.
While I was able to finish the race (earning a fancy finisher’s medal), it was not easy to do so. I felt every mile I had not run in the past few months every time my foot pounded against the concrete, a pain that continues even now as I write this. Walking is not an easy venture at the moment. I suffer because of my hubris, believing myself to be a better athlete than I am, and because of my procrastination. I kept putting off exercise each day believing that I would have more time to do it once my calf healed or as soon as I got through a stressful week. When you keep telling yourself things like that you soon realize that the time you thought you had has passed. Then you find yourself standing on the start line of a half-marathon in awe at the fact that there are so many running nerds around you, and in horror thinking about how many miles you have to run.
The point that I am trying to make is this: Balance in a college life is key. One of my friends recently related some advice that he was given before coming to college and that was to not let classes get in the way of your college education. Now, classes are important, make sure you get your work done before you go and play. But that statement is really saying don’t let your life become controlled by academics. Be able to step away and go have fun and explore. That is one of the nice things about Juniata. Yes, you need to work hard and be studious, but the school encourages the students to take part in other activities. We have over a hundred clubs on campus, and if joining one or several of them doesn’t get you out of your room there’s always something to do on campus.
So take charge and be studious so that you can excel in your classes, but also take the time to step back and breath and hey, maybe even run a half-marathon. The pain is totally worth the free banana at the end.
Just when the semester is in full force, and you feel like your Physical Chemistry book is about to consume what is left of your will power, a glimmer of salvation appears. That light comes in the form of fall break. While students have the option to stay on campus, most choose to go home, or go home with a friend. This year my friend Bernard and I decided to split time between his house and mine. We both live in suburban Philadelphia and are only separated by a 40-minute drive. So on Wednesday evening Bernard and I were off to the races, more then excited to see our families. The first couple of days were spent at Bernard’s house, and I may have left ten pounds heavier. His mother’s cooking is second to none. After eating, sleeping, hanging out with his friends, and eating some more, it was time to go to my hometown. Over the next two weeks the Hindu holiday Nawratri is celebrated. It is a festival that includes eating, singing, and dancing, so on Saturday night Bernard, my family, and I went out to celebrate. In no time Bernard quickly picked up on the cultural dance and we had a blast. That night when we were settling in for bed I started thinking about how I had made such amazing friends at Juniata. Ones that I’ll have not just for a semester, or 4 years but for a lifetime. I think that speaks to the type of kid that comes to Juniata. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds but they share a common sense of what I can only describe as compassion and kindness. As cheesy as this might sound, we care for each other here, we watch each others back, and we come out friends for life, and I think that common trait is what makes someone a Juniatian, and makes JC, JC.