I remember those days clearly: limping through the halls ofmiddle and high school, avoiding trips to my locker due to time constraints, schlepping an overloaded backpack to each class. Open up the backpack in this vision, and a person might find the following: half-crumpled sheets of homework, folded andmutilated notebooks, inconsistently organized binders and textbooks (if I’dremembered them on any given day). Any
conclusion other than this wouldn’t do the image justice – that Abrams tank of
a backpack was the result of an inefficient, over-worked student lifestyle.
Now, I’m thirty-two, and slower. In my adolescent years, I had the mind of an immortal, but in the back of my mind, I knew the days of struggling up stairs and decreased energy would shake my hand a lot sooner than the other healthier, stronger, and more athletic students. I did have a reasonable excuse for this fatigue, however. I was born with a congenital muscle disease called Nemaline Myopathy. Nemaline Myopathy, discovered in the 1950’s and one of the Muscular Dystrophy Association’s 42 classified conditions, contributes to this weakness. The version I carry is acute compared others, and I’ve learned with age and God’s grace to accept it and embrace it. Most individuals with NM show early signs of muscle weakness and require wheelchairs, breathing machines, and eating assistance. However, the ambulatory form of NM which I carry gives me the characteristic tall, thin demeanor, weak facial musculature, scoliosis (which required surgery in 1997), frequent bronchitis, and a quicker destiny to “slowing down” as I approach my mid-thirties. If you’re curious about the disorder, follow the links I’ve embedded throughout the post.
The NM, however, has often caused me to press harder. Stubbornness and unwillingness to rest contributes to most of my inefficiency. This has often led to a scattered, fatigued, disorganized, and willful sprint through life. Now, I’ve come to realize that students don’t need NM to forget the importance of rest and the value of health.
I want to encourage every student out there to budget time to rest. Yes, the stakes might be very high for earning a college degree, and while the rewards might seem muted in
this dulled and delayed economy, a college degree still offers value upon value. Pursuit and focus are essential to our success. However, mitigating mental and physical breakdowns should also remain high on the student’s list of priorities. Budgeting time to rest with family, friends, and loved ones (and specifically for those whose lives remain
spiritually rooted, time alone with God), should still be high on a student’s list of priorities.
What happens if we become sick? Sometimes, sickness can be an opportunity to learn to rest. Providence has given me a job with a supervisor who sends me home at the first sign of swollen lymph nodes or a particularly vexing cough. I’ve had to learn, and still learn, that sickness often requires rest. It’s during these times of immobility, of weakness, of great fear and despair, that I learn the quality and importance of rest. I don’t wish sickness upon anyone. I just beg and encourage wisdom for my fellow students.
Even in times of health, whether a person of faith or not, there remains nothing wrong with the Thursday evening Scholar Sabbath, or the four hours spent at a movie with a friend, or a lazy evening watching useless television in between personal, work, and school responsibilities. I encourage everyone – especially in this Last Mile of the semester – to budget a time for such rest.
Don’t think calculated rest is laziness, or lack of proactivity. Think of it as a time of recharging. And, if you’re sick, give yourself time to be sick. You won’t have a college degree without a functioning body and mind.
May the last weeks of the semester meet you with kindness, grace, prosperity, and success.
More information about NM here.