There is a lot of stress around campus these days as finals start on Monday. The tension is high as the semester’s end is right around the corner. Everyone is also starting to feel the holiday frenzy as the late Thanksgiving caused December to sneak up on us this year. There are projects, pageants, presents and potlucks — all requiring our time and attention.
It is a natural temptation to say “if I can just get past ______, it will slow down.” Insert the word of your choice: finals, Hanukkah, the concert, making cookies, finishing my shopping.
Only it never does slow down. Some other event is always on the horizon, just waiting to be inserted into the blank.
Peter Vaill* labeled this phenomenon “permanent whitewater”. We think that once we get through the rapids, that the river will slow down. We hope for that, but in reality, there is a permanent sequence of events that demand our energies. He recommends mentally preparing for this pace rather than being surprised or distressed when the next “rapid” appears in our life. After Christmas there will be activities to start the semester, then taxes, then another round of finals and then, and then. Everyone has their own list of rapids, but they exist for each of us.
Instead of wishing for time to speed up so you can “get through” the _____, try to acknowledge the events for what they are and savor the moment. I have been whitewater rafting before and can tell you firsthand that the rapids are the best parts of the ride if you throw yourself into them.
Learning as a Way of Being: Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water by Peter Vaill, 1996