In my last post, I listed all the cool natural areas of North Carolina that I was going to visit this semester. These trips were meant to make me spend more time in nature and give me a break from the stress that I knew would come with finishing my master’s project (MP) and the last semester of my master’s degree.
Well, aside from a few short walks in the park behind my apartment, I didn’t do any of the things on that list. Just like every spring semester before this one, I was busier than I expected to be, and had less free time than I thought I would. But in the midst of job applications, conducting interviews for my MP, meeting with my classmates for group projects, and doing the occasional homework assignment, I did still find time to take breaks from school.
First, I helped lead the publication of the fifth issue of eno Magazine, a student-run, nature-inspired art and literary publication. (The latest issue is available online here.)
Second, I continued playing violin with Honey Magpie, the local band I joined last summer.
Even though I wasn’t spending time in nature, the work I was doing for both the magazine and the band was at least inspired by nature – the entire mission of eno is to re-connect people with nature through art and literature, and almost all of Honey Magpie’s songs are either inspired by nature or reference nature in some way.
I would not say that running a magazine or playing music are a substitute for spending time outdoors (although playing music comes pretty close). Spending time hiking or kayaking or just sitting on my back porch might have been more relaxing and a better mental and emotional break.
But then again, designing a magazine and playing violin both required me to be fully present. When I’m checking a proof for errors or learning a new part, I don’t have the mental space to think about how much more of my MP report I have to write or what the deadline is for my next job application. I am forced to put all that stress on the back burner and focus on the here and now.
That’s not to say that the magazine and the band were never stressful. But these were stresses that didn’t relate to whether or not I would graduate and get a job in the next few months. And that was pretty nice.
Now that my MP is almost behind me and the job search is looking a little brighter, I can appreciate how instrumental my non-academic pursuits have been in preserving my sanity this semester. Not only were they a welcome escape from school work, but I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished on each project. The newest issue of eno is beautiful (here’s the link again), and Honey Magpie is continuing to expand our reach and our repertoire (check out our Facebook page here).
It’s also nice to know that in both of those pursuits I’ve contributed to endeavors that will continue beyond my graduation – eno has a great leadership team for next year, and Honey Magpie has shows scheduled well into fall. It’s a nice reminder that life goes on, past MPs and even past graduation. I’m not sure exactly what post-grad life will look like for me, but if my past pursuits have been any indication, I’ll be doing something inspired by nature.