It is Spring Break time on the University of California-Davis campus. Yesterday was the last day of classes, and this week is finals. Jonathan has one tomorrow and then we are heading out to Salt Lake City to visit his parents. And I know this question is all on your minds, but no, he is not from a Mormon family. He is from a staunch Catholic family. The reason they are in SLC is because Jonathan’s dad works there, his office relocated him while Jonathan was still in high school. Once all the birds had flown the coup, Jonathan’s mother moved out to Salt Lake. Rather than being a plane ride away, in Davis we are about a 10 hour drive away. The only issue that has stopped us thus far from making more trips to see them is the mountains to our east (the Sierra Nevadas) have had multiple snow storms and lots of snow. While good for skiers, it’s not so good for a four-door sedan that would require pricey chains on the tires. Thus, our dilemma. We decided to leave tomorrow after Jonathan finished his final, but the forecast predicts there will be three to five inches of snow dropped during the day and the reports are already saying chains are mandatory. Hopefully Thursday will give us the opportunity to sneak by.
This got me thinking about spring breaks. When in grade school, middle school, and high school, the break in the school year was typically spent with family. Some people would go south to warmer weather, and others would go on mini-vacations to visit family and friends. When I was a senior in high school, my mom and I went to Ames, Iowa, where my sister was in school. Our spring breaks did not match up so she was still taking classes, and when she would come home a week later, I would be back in school. I was only out there for an extended weekend, meaning a Friday through Monday. We spent some of the time going to Des Moines to the new shopping center, walking around campus, and of course, my sister and I, along with her boyfriend at the time, spent the evenings doing shots of various alcohols. I have this distinct memory watching Ice Age, drunk off of Mike’s Hard and Jagermeister. The movie has never been the same.
College years are the ones where you hear of people going to foreign countries. People would hit up the beaches of Mexico, which always made me wonder what the appeal was. No doubt it was like a class reunion. My roommate of three years, went to New York one year, and came back with amazing stories, along with awful moments (someone stole a very expensive jacket of hers; I wonder why Lindsay Lohan was…). My spring breaks were boring. Either I would go home to visit my parents and see if I could reunite with old friends (usually that didn’t happen, because while I was in the Chicago suburbs they were all meeting each other randomly in Cabo), or I would stay in Iowa City, glad that the it was relatively void of students.
That was the magic of Iowa City. During break times, winter, spring, summer, the beauty of the city was really showcased. You didn’t have a bunch of underage kids wandering downtown getting drunk. The Iowa City natives would come out and fun activities like farmer’s market, the Iowa City Arts Fair, and different festivals would go on. Students, though contributing greatly to the town’s economic status throughout the year, ruined the sublime peacefulness of summer. My roommate recently commented that the summer she spent in Iowa City was the most romantic of her life. And we are not talking about romantic love, we are talking about the poetic idea. She loved that she would wake up, get ready for work, and while walking there, stop at the local coffee shop. She would work her shift, walk to the Bread Garden and get some food. She would eat, read or design jewelry. The evenings were warm and she would spend them with friends either drinking beer at one of the local bars, or enjoy a glass of wine as she worked on her handmade jewelry. The days were simple, the living was cheap (relatively speaking, she lives in Chicago now, and though she has lucked out on rent, everything else does cost more money). Davis has some of the same feel, but it is drastically different. Whenever I say this, people always ask how, and unfortunately for me, it is an intangible thing. It’s not like I can point at a tree and say that the tree is why. It’s a feeling. This amorphous something that is in the air, in my head, and my heart.
Spring break has become a thing of my past, though. I have been out of school for three years and offices do not offer a week’s vacation in March. Imagine the productivity level if they did. It’s surprising what a few days off can do for the psyche. I am still in the grasp of spring break, though, because Jonathan is a student still. I have mixed feelings about this. He turns 26 this year and he still gets these periodic “free times” throughout the year. He has been a student for 21 years, and student life is drastically different from working life. There is freedom. And I know there have been arguments with my friends that master’s programs and PhD programs and not “easy”. I don’t claim they are, but I also think there is a level of freedom that is never taken into account. Jonathan always says that this is his job, and I know it is. He gets paid as a student because not only is he taking classes, but research is a major part of his academic career. I feel it is unfair of me to think that his life as a student is easier than mine as a person working 40+ hour weeks, but I also think it is unfair of students (masters and PhD candidates specifically) to assume that the working life is somehow better than what they are going through. My job was never my passion. It was a way to get paid so that we could afford certain things. Passion is what motivates masters and PhD students. They have such a passion for what they do that they are studying it further for the option of a career. The hours of study, the research, I am sure it is difficult, but it’s still bolstered by passion, and there is something in that. Where is the passion in scanning a million little tubes filled with synthetic DNA? There is none. It’s a means to an end. There is no internal motivation. And I don’t even have that means anymore. I am living my dream career, also known as the pauper’s career. I am the tortured artist living off of macaroni and cheese, sending in job applications to Starbucks and Borders book stores, so that I have more time and freedom to write. Unfortunately with this economic climate, not too many people want to give writers the chance. That, and people are not spending money on frivolities, like books.
Oh, student life. I was once told that the best way to “get by” in this economic downfall was to become a student again. I am guessing that many people had this idea, as applications are abounding. It’s dog eat dog, and I think I just became the next meal.