I’m always at a bit of a loss this time of year, but not for the reasons you might typically think. The winter holiday season is a hectic series of weeks of shopping and decorating and cooking and making plans with friends and family to spend as much time together as possible, but despite a pace that often seems fairly frantic, it’s actually a substantial period of downtime for me.
Hence the weird sensation of being a bit adrift that always hits me around mid-December – I’m not really accustomed to downtime.
Maybe it’s a higher ed thing; maybe it’s a horse person thing. Whatever the cause, I always seem to hit this time of year, look at my calendar, and say, “Hmm – that’s odd.” I have no flights or hotels booked before mid-January of 2019; my weekend schedule is strangely clear of clinics and presentations and meetings (and yes, I’ve watched a few more Hallmark movies than I’d care to admit to). And with one recently retired horse and a just started three-year-old standing at home this winter to rest and (for the three-year-old) to grow, I’m catch riding a few really cool horses at the moment, but don’t have any really specific training goals before my young guy goes back into training in the spring.
But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few years when I hit the December doldrums, it’s to embrace them while they last.
The term “self care” is one that continues to crop up more and more in conversation and in a lot of the career and higher education forums I participate in online and I believe it’s an absolutely valuable concept that we need to embrace. I know my horses have always come back into work better after a day of easy hacking or even a complete day or two off, so why wouldn’t the same concept apply to me when it comes to my job?
And for that matter, why wouldn’t the same idea apply to stressed out high school students in the midst of their college search?
After all, if you’re a high school senior right now and you’ve worked with a really good college counselor (either through your school or by working with an independent, such as myself), you’re in a good place for some self care time right now as well. Your applications are either all in or are nearly ready to be submitted, your Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) and/or CSS Profile are completed, and you’re able to focus on your upcoming semester exams at school – as well as your upcoming holiday break. Likewise, if you’re a junior who has started looking at colleges, you’re in a position to take a bit of a breather because PSAT results are beginning to emerge and most colleges will shut down for the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, which means you can take a break from the earnest part of your search until after your semester exams wrap up as well.
If you – like me – are accustomed to going full tilt at every other part of the school year, this downtime undoubtedly feels strange to you too. Embrace it.
Embrace the chance to step back from all of the college noise for a few weeks. Embrace the chance to catch up on the shows on your Netflix list (or binge old favorites). If you’re headed to Florida or Thermal or Wilmington for the winter show season, embrace the chance to sneak in a few easy hacks or take a few days off before the intensity level ramps up again.
The winter doldrums for college-bound students and competitive equestrians don’t last forever – in fact, this few weeks will fly by and then it will be like they never happened in the first place. So sit back and enjoy them while they’re here.
(And if you watch too many Hallmark movies in the meantime, I won’t tell.)