You could call this “the grace period.” January. The New Year, the clean slate. For me, January has been the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The point where, at last, I’d have all my materials submitted, all my online status updates blinking “Under Review” in perfect unison. This month is supposed to be my respite, my freedom—a time to read, to start new essays, to work on submissions, to catch up on things like cleaning out the closet and going to yoga and good old fashioned sleep. A sweet break in the madness before notification calls kick-off at the end of the month.
I want to seize this time. But it’s also hard not to put undue pressure on myself, on this month. You see, I’ve done this all before—and I know the crazy that sets in once those admissions calls and emails start coming in. I know what it feels like to jump in my skin, heart racing, with each ring of the telephone, each “New Mail” notification in my inbox. I know all about the sudden glut of telemarketers and political polls, all of whom manage to call from the same states that play home to my dream schools. I know that sinking feeling that comes from one rejection after another.
So I know, at this point, that I have one month (not even that, in fact) of guaranteed safety; and then every phone call and email ping for the ensuing three months will have the power to throw me into a crazy spiral of “what if’s.”
Plus, this is also the last month of my twenties. So as I stare down the face of my future—as I wait to see whether I will be going back to school or hacking it here on my own, moving as close as the Pacific Northwest or as far as the East Coast—I’ll also be ushering in a new phase of adulthood. One that, to be honest, I welcome with open arms—but that I’ve also built up to be something of a milestone, something of an expiration date for bad habits and irresponsible behavior and youthful indecision.
Since arriving back home from my holiday road trip odyssey visiting family up and down the length of California, I’ve written and re-written my “January To Do List” half a dozen times. This post kept on topping the list—and I kept on skipping it for easier tasks like returning emails or taking the results of my post-Christmas cleaning frenzy to the Goodwill. The truth is, total freedom is tough to conquer. It comes to you in the guise of a gift, a luxury; but once you step inside that space, it’s all too easy to succumb to the pressure—to use your time well, to be exhaustive, to accomplish everything—and do nothing at all. In between my list-making and closet cleaning, I’ve taken a few walks, watched a couple of movies, slept in, gone out for drinks with my boyfriend, vacuumed and dusted and hit the end-of-year online clearance sale circuit with money I definitely do NOT have (twice). Meanwhile, my resolutions to write 500 words a day, submit my application essays to literary journals, quit drinking so much coffee and go to bed early have fallen by the wayside.
Then again, the year is young. And sometimes, a random Monday is just as good an excuse to hit the “reset” button as a New Year or a milestone birthday. So today, I’m making the final iteration of my “January To Do List.” Tonight, I’ll salute the full moon. And tomorrow, I’ll officially start my own personal grace period—my 25-days-to-30—with 500 words of new writing and a dedication to letting go, enjoying my freedom, and letting it teach me whatever lessons I’ll need going into notification season.