Cool the grind: Sometimes indulgence is healthy

The excitement of sharpies, stickers and glitter

If someone asked me to choose one thing to take with me in case of a fire, I would without a doubt say my mint box of multi-colored Sharpies. 

These Sharpies used to be one of the most important things in my life. They are exquisitely lined up in the correct color gradation — God forbid they get placed out of order — and each one has a needle-fine point that produces clear, crisp lines. For the first time in my three years here, I began to maintain a planner religiously just so I would have an excuse to whip out my beloved markers and use them to meticulously decorate each page. Every day’s schedule was written in a different color combination. I even researched “bullet journaling” and began my amateur journey of implementing what I learned. It was as if I were in the honeymoon phase of a new relationship — my world was consumed by my puppy love for this plastic box of permanent markers. 

Although this is a slight exaggeration, I do think it is fascinating how enamored I was with this mundane box of writing utensils. They were just different colors, not much else was particularly remarkable about them. So why was I so obsessed with something this simple?

There are definitely times when I catch myself being much less mature and more childish than my 21 years of age suggest. I actually realized this tendency to act childishly only increased exponentially upon coming to college, and I am much more taken with things that are superficially attractive now than before. At stationary stores, I always pick the sticky notes with the widest variety of colors. Stickers of all shapes and sizes are a staple, and I hoard them like a squirrel hoarding acorns in the fall. Even the band-aids that I buy are the kind with Disney characters on them — something that I have not had in my possession since the age of five. Thinking back on it, it all seems ridiculously over the top. There has to be a reason why all this is appealing to me now.

The first thought that comes to my mind is that in the stressful environment of college where everything is very fast-paced and rigorous, the smallest bit of excitement can do wonders to lighten your mood. Organization is aesthetically pleasing because it is so often lacking from our lives. In a setting where time, money and energy are at constant odds with each other, finding something small and pretty is almost a symbol of hope. 

Whenever I look at my box of beautifully arranged Sharpies or the Mulan band-aid on my scraped knee, I smile. It is a sign to me that not everything needs to be serious. Some things can just be fun and frivolous. It is very easy, as a college student, to only do things because it benefits you in a certain way. We constantly ask ourselves the point of doing something, going to an event or even talking to someone if it does nothing for us.

While it may be a lot to simply extrapolate this from the buying of fun band-aids or stickers, I use it as an example of how much I took the small things for granted up until last semester. This is not an attempt to condemn this behavior as negative but to explain why this happens naturally. 

I trace it back to my constant need to be efficient with my time when I first started school. I would tell myself that I have no time to waste and that every moment needs to be a productive part of my day. Unconsciously, this mindset extended to the most remote aspects of my life — from the type of shoes or groceries I bought to the way I dressed everyday. I bought groceries specifically for meals that would take no more than 30 minutes to make. I only bought shoes that were practical and good for walking. I started to neglect putting effort into my outfits because it was a waste of time. 

It was as if I had signed a contract to permanently eliminate anything inefficient from my day. I even became apprehensive about spending time with friends or watching a television show because I knew every minute doing this was a minute not spent on homework, readings or applications. The hectic, constantly moving culture of the University had begun to swallow me, and I was afraid I would fall behind if I didn’t spend every waking moment on work. 

This year, I have made a point to tear myself away from that toxic mindset. 

I purposely refuse to maintain a Google calendar because it only stresses me out. I write my to-do list down so that constant notifications on my devices do not pop up. I go out of my way to buy fun knick knacks simply because they catch my eye. I listen to my body and eat what I really felt like eating — within reasonable limits of course. I make it a point to take the extra 10 minutes for myself in the morning to just lay in bed and mentally pick out my outfit for the day. And I’ve let back in pretty things. They are a form of distraction and solace, something that I think is needed and encouraged for stressed college students like ourselves. 

I feel like I can actually enjoy my time as a young adult who is not yet ready to go out into the real world. And if I ever need to remind myself of that, I can turn to my childish, color-arranged array of Sharpies and find solace in the fact that sometimes childish things are there to give my brain a break and give my mind a chance to reset.

Shree Baphna is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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