Springtime approaches, at least nominally, with the prospect of spring break titillating the tired souls of the masses -- a time of poetic and literal rebirth, renewal, and regeneration, as the cold-winded days of winter slowly wane. Both the season, and the upcoming week-long reprieve from routine duties, are perfect times for spring cleaning; as we create a refreshed environment to live in, it is also an appropriate time to clean out our mental attics and garages, and spring-clean our minds.
Spring break is a time for unrestrained revelry for most, and thus it should be. Be it with a trip back home, visits to old friends, road trips with new ones, or with a week spent lounging about and frittering a week away, the important attribute is that it’s a break from the hectic whirlwind of life, when we are normally tossed around like frayed and mismatched socks in the dryer.
This interlude between the acts of the tragic comedy of collegiate student life can be used, much like the time spent dining alone, to reflect upon our position and velocity in life as best we can. It’s unfortunate that normal schedules don’t allow for really careful, deliberate introspection; while late night episodes of work-avoidance do allow for much random contemplation, carefully sorting out and cleaning our minds takes a solid block of downtime.
Like the furniture which was originally placed willy-nilly in the living room in an unideal configuration, but which we got used to and hence never rearranged, the inertia of our ideas, priorities, and endeavors often precludes substantial change. If we’re either sprinting down a predetermined path, or perpetually chasing carrots perpetually dangled in front of us, we can at best keep running and hope we don’t trip on our shoelaces. At worst, we can burn out, find ourselves lost in unknown terrain, or find that we’ve been running in the opposite direction of the finish line. With a moment’s reflection, we can rearrange our priorities and goals, and establish a more ideal layout of our living rooms.
Spring cleaning also involves sorting through the accumulated gimcracks, bibelots, knickknacks, and whatnots hastily thrown in the storage closet. We bring out all the sundry items, worn from overuse or rusty from disuse, and reassess if we really still need that broken rake or old sneakers. In goes the incomplete set of golf clubs and trombone we no longer play in the “I might need them later” box, and out go the clothes that are two sizes too small for the garage sale, after nostalgic remembrances of experiences with them.
It’s often useful to apply this process mentally, as well, though re-labeling ideas and attitudes isn’t as simple of a process. The status and nature of our interests, our tastes, our friends and acquaintances, our mannerisms, and peculiarities change quite rapidly, especially during collegiate years; a reunion with old acquaintances who, after extended separation, have changed immensely, often illustrates this fact. It’s still the same person, the same house, but the contents are replaced and reshuffled continually. Taking notice of how the contents of ourselves have changed, lets us know if we should make a special effort to undo or encourage that change.
Some neglected things should be brought out of deep storage, fixed up, and reused -- things like child-like wonder at the world, compassion and empathy, and innocence. Others, like jaded cynicism, cut-throat competition, and the socioacademic narrow-mindedness that accompanies specialization, could be tucked away in a storage box to make room for the forgotten feelings and favorite childhood toys we’ve rediscovered.
It takes some heavy lifting, a good pair of workgloves, and a good supply of 409, but without at least some periodic cleansing and shuffling, upon returning from a week of Key Westian merriment, we’ll end up spending the remaining months with a cluttered, dusty mental environment.