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J-term freedom: A blessing, but also a curse

During finals week this past December, I kept trying to motivate myself to study by remembering that I got to go back home after all of my exams to spend time with my family and hometown friends. This grew old fast, as I was reminded that being home would last for six weeks — not three, like the rest of my friends from home returning from college.

Miami having such a long winter break is both a blessing and a curse. For me, I found it to be more of a curse, as I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do to keep myself busy for that amount of time. With my parents and siblings being out of the house for half of each day, I went from being with people 24/7 in the residence halls to being by myself the majority of the time. 

Not only was I sad to leave my friends behind for so long, but I was sad to leave my almost “perfected” daily routine behind. 

It felt like the semester had just begun, and I had just fallen in love with my class schedule and daily routine, down to the minute. I had specific times to go to the gym, dining hall or to hang out with friends depending on the day of the week. 

Though the thought of leaving this “perfect” daily and weekly routine was unsettling, I tried to get myself excited to create a new routine for when I returned home. One thing I did in order to really have this set in stone was to sketch out what I wanted to accomplish over break with all of the daunting free time. 

Once I returned home the Friday of finals week, I gave myself Saturday and Sunday to lay in bed all day and just go with the flow, then started my “new routine” the following Monday.

Instead of just waking up every morning whenever I wanted and then not knowing what to do once I was up, I set alarms and goals for what I wanted to do most mornings. This mostly consisted of cooking myself a delicious breakfast and making my way over to the gym to move my body. Once I got a good sweat in and made my way back home, the rest of the day was up in the air. 

Though it was such a small part of my day that was a set routine for the six weeks of J-term, it made me feel like I actually accomplished something and didn’t just sit around all day. 

The same went for the rest of the day. Even if I only went to the gym or grabbed lunch with a friend, it made me feel so much better about sitting on TikTok or watching Law and Order for the rest of each day.

My “home routine” only consisted of going to the gym, reading for pleasure, babysitting occasionally and seeing my friends, but it made me feel like there was at least some structure to my break. These small goals that I had set for myself made me feel like I was making good use of my time while being home with pretty much nothing to do. 

Additionally, one of my biggest life-savers, aside from having a solid morning routine, was taking a J-term class that I was going to take during the spring semester anyway. 

Even though it’s a lot of work during the 3-week period, it was so worth it to knock out a 3-credit course with all of my free time. So not only did I feel ten times more accomplished every day that I completed work for my class, but I also made room for another course that I wanted to take this semester. 

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Winter Break is called a “break” for a reason, so even if you didn’t feel like your break was particularly productive, it didn’t have to be if you didn’t want it to. If you wanted to accomplish more and didn’t quite get there, use that as motivation to be productive this spring semester.

For me, these small goals and additions to my day made me feel like I actually did something with the month and a half for which we were home. Don’t get me wrong, binge-watching Law and Order is definitely an accomplishment, but not one that I am especially proud of — so knowing that I did more than that gives me peace of mind that the break was used adequately.