8:53 am: Logged-in and the anxiety looms in the empty seat next to mine in the Kupa‘a building’s math classroom at the end of the hall. The formulas and graphs that I’ve rehearsed multiple times the night before are mapped-out on my two-sided, 11 x 8.5-inch piece of notebook paper — my trusty help sheet to ease the worry of the imminent 15 or so problems that await on this test. 8:59 am: One minute until my teacher walks through that door with the password to unlock the labyrinth of variables, functions, and the ever-present question, “What is the domain?” At 9:00 am, she walks through the door and sets her course for each one of our computers to uncage the numerical monster. As my computer’s screen reads, “Loading…,” an encouraging reminder from my monster wrangler resonates from meditating for nearly two years now and recently staring to practice yoga, “Remember to breathe.”
I’ve been a student at this college, on and off, since the Fall semester of 2006. Fresh out of high school, it was nearly a last minute decision to attend the University of Hawaii, Maui College (UHMC), which was still called Maui Community College at that time. With no sense of direction post-high school, as well as a little push from my family, I decided to continue my education in Liberal Arts. With my fluctuating status as a student here at UHMC over the past nine years — part-time, full-time, not enrolled; part-time with a part-time job, full-time with a full-time job — one thing I’ve gradually learned and finally implemented in my final semester now is balance.
As a student, you may feel overworked at times. Being overworked could lead to not getting an adequate amount of sleep, resulting in falling asleep in class and/or not retaining the day’s lecture material. While it is a very important time to be focused on your studies, everyone needs time to re-balance; everyone needs time to rest, rejuvenate, and avoid fatigue. One way to go about rejuvenating yourself is by exploring the nature that our home, Maui, has to offer.
In Maui, there are many ways to escape from our responsibilities: hiking, snorkeling, diving, surfing, bodyboarding; working on that tan at the beach that’s been neglected in-favor of research papers and quadratic equations. I’ve always had a connection to nature, and I always receive a sense of fulfillment from spending time in it. I believe that spending some time outdoors away from our televisions, computers, and mobile phones can refresh our minds and inspire. I was on my way to work a week ago, feeling overwhelmed and listening to music, when this line from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Zephyr Song” rang so hauntingly true for me and so many of us that love to spend some time in our ocean and rivers: “In the water where I center my emotion, all the world can pass me by.”
My love and I made an adventure to a waterfall hike in the West Maui Mountains a few days ago, where the tickling sound of a trickling stream replaced the constant tapping of our keyboards, setting aside our stacks of to-do’s to spend a day together. Seeing the sunlight peeking from behind the bend in the path, illuminating the endless-green gave us a feeling of calm and peace, as well as the scent of squashed guavas and the fragrant perfume of flowers of ginger plants. I felt much excitement from rapidly navigating rocks to hop on to — left foot here, right foot there; big leap onto the non-mossy section of the boulder in the stream. And tasting the Shine Berry-glossed kiss of my love after helping her across a daunting section of the slippery rock-filled stream authenticated the need for this getaway for us both. Rain clouds came tumbling in, our adventure postponed a quarter of the way to the waterfalls to avoid the looming potential of being caught in a flash flood. The lure of water called us to the sunny ocean.
We decided to continue our adventure by exploring an unfamiliar beach, and to our amazement, the treasure of a nearly deserted shoreline awaited us. Equally delighted by the very clear visibility and minimally bleached, but still vibrant reef, we were welcomed by hungry turtles seeking dinner and one that just wanted to take a nap in a gap of the reef. With the sound of every wave crashing overhead, I felt my fatigue and mental fog dissolving, until all that remained was a deep sense of peace and a radiating heart of appreciation. I’m reminded of the words my Oceanography teacher said a few weeks ago about water: “Water dissolves almost everything.”
It’s true that when you are faced with challenges, instead of dwelling on them, the best thing to do is leave them alone for a while. By doing so, you restore balance. What I discovered after spending a day away from schoolwork is that I can address my challenges with clarity and efficiency. So, if you’re feeling bogged-down by schoolwork and other responsibilities, find a little time to seek solace in nature, find your own unfamiliar adventure, and remember to breathe.