Guilty Pleasures (and why we need them)

At the risk of sounding like a bit of a nerd, I’m going to share a little story from my winter break because I think the moral is especially relevant for the start of winter quarter.

When I packed for my annual holiday visit home this year, as usual, most of my carry-on bag consisted of books. And not just any books. These were books that I needed to read for fairly important purposes—knowledge of my field and all that jazz. The titles were as follows:

The Imprint of Gender: Authorship and Publication in the English Renaissance, Wendy Wall
Nobody’s Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace 1670-1820, Catharine Gallagher
Writing Matter: From the Hands of the English Renaissance, Jonathan Goldberg
Consider the Lobster, David Foster Wallace
Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, Allan Gurganus

Okay, so the last two are not quite scholarly, but the majority are books that I thought would be good to read as I finished up my Ph.D. applications for next fall. Finishing these books would have made me feel productive; I would be starting the new quarter in a great place, on top of everything, and completely caught up with my work. However, when I arrived home, I walked into my old bedroom and found my entire collection of Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series sitting on the table next to the bed.

(Hear the rest of the story after the jump…)

Two weeks later, as winter break comes to an end, I have read none of the books on my original list. Instead, I am halfway through the third Sword of Truth book (and these are 800-page books, people), with every intention of moving right onto the fourth. So, rather than arriving back in Chicago feeling productive and ready to start the new quarter, I have spent my break with the Seeker, the Mother Confessor, and a Wizard of the First Order. They will probably not be important for my statement of purpose.

Do I regret my decision? No. And neither should you, no matter what your guilty pleasure was over winter break. If it was cookies, that’s fine too.

Moral of the story is this…guilty pleasure reading (or whatever) is not a bad thing. If you maybe didn’t get as much thesis work done over break as you would have liked, don’t start winter quarter regretting your somewhat lax attitude over break. Fact is, you’ll need guilty pleasure pastimes during winter quarter more than any other quarter during your MAPH year. So, if you’re halfway through Goblet of Fire, don’t fret. Instead, bring the last three Harry Potter books back with you and use them to relax during the next stressful 10 weeks. Whatever it is, you’re going to need something to help you get through the large amount of coursework and thesis reading that is about to be thrust on you.

So, stop feeling guilty. Eat another cookie. Read another chapter of Game of Thrones. Watch another episode of Arrested Development (the entire series is now on Netflix instant watch). Truly, these things are going to help get you through winter quarter. And, if you don’t completely trust yourself, come to us for some time management strategies so you don’t waste away watching Mad Men (also on Netflix instant watch).

Hope you all had an excellent break and don’t forget to come stop by MAPHCentral for a visit during your first week!

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