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Thursday, April 18, 2024
The Observer

Restoration Week totally worked. Let’s try it again

Breath in … breath out … breath in … this sucks. This sucks. I am still stressed out. I have papers to write, appointments to make and about 40 other things before the idea of a break can even be entertained. But all I need to do is power through to Friday, and let the weekend be my savior. Until Monday that is, when the cycle repeats all over. 

To combat these feelings of angst among us, last week the University’s McDonald Center for Well-being hosted Restoration Week. Instead of the usual fall break, students of all classes could find new “opportunities to relax, laugh, experience memories from home [or] have a little change of scenery,” according to the Center’s guide. And by God, am I thankful. Had it not been for the Zoom invitations for online yoga or scented candles out on South, I have no idea where my sanity would be today. Because if there is one thing that’s become clear from such a special week, it’s that even the most “relaxing” of activities can leave me feeling the same: stressed out.

This is not to say that the McDonald Center didn’t have the best intentions coming into this project. The fact they took the time to plan all these activities means they really do care about our well-being, and regardless of my own feelings, it’s something that should be applauded. However, with everything on our plates right now, seeing the McDonald Center’s bright red all-caps header TAKE A BREAK only comes off as tone-deaf to what is really getting students down. It’s not the fact that we don’t know how to relax. It’s the fact that there is nothing to look forward to once the relaxing is over.

In this pandemic-led world we now live in, limitations seem to define the new normal. Of course, there are the reminders to socially distance, sanitize our hands and isolate from others when necessary. But it goes much deeper than that. College was supposed to be the one opportunity to deeply explore who we are in a risk-free environment. It was supposed to be a time to discover our passions and develop into agents of change for the world. But instead, we now find ourselves sitting still, hopelessly watching that world burn from afar. We have resorted to confining our growth to thicker textbooks, rigorous internships or even Mindfulness Drop-In Sessions. At the end of the day, we know these routines, meant  to keep ourselves busy or social, all have something fundamentally missing. We know deep down there is more to life than this. 

As to what that missing “thing” is, I can only describe it as this: A few hours before the game last week, I was sitting in my room staring at the ceiling. The past few hours were fun, hanging out with my friends on South Quad and eating some fancy desserts the dining hall had in store. But at the risk of committing Fighting Irish blasphemy, I wasn’t really excited for the game. More than just the cold and the opponent being Louisville (You know what I mean.), I didn’t want to spend my weekend at the same stadium at the same seats having the same kind of experience. Of course, getting to meet new people in the stands isn’t something I would ever hope to pass on. But at this point, it was more a routine than a want.

So, I did the unthinkable for any true ND fan. I skipped it. Convincing my roommate Hector to go with me, we took his car and explored South Bend for the day. And while I can certainly boast about the Panda Express we ate and the off-brand Notre Dame merch I got suckered into buying, the experience was more than that. Out in the Bend, I was reminded that there is so much more to the world around us than the student routines that have defined our lives this semester. There were new people to meet, new activities to do, new thoughts to consider that I never would have read in a book. In essence, I got to have a break that didn’t just distract from the work waiting for me tomorrow. It was a break that showed me how much more there is to discover. 

Unfortunately, McWell’s Restoration Week has officially passed. But in this time of seemingly endless limitations, I say this: Don’t let your opportunity to be mindful stay confined as well. Instead, take your chance. Try a new activity on a Tuesday night  or read a new book during your recovery from a weekend hangover. Whatever it is, just be sure that it falls completely out of your routine. Because when it comes to really feeling restored, it is not something that gets solved in a single week. It’s something we should want to do consistently, this week and the next.

Edward Brunicardi is a sophomore at Notre Dame pursuing a major in political science and a minor with the Hesburgh Program of Public Service. Though he may have had all the creativity sucked out of him in high school, writing serves as Edward’s best chance at getting something back. He can be reached at or @EdwardBrunicar1 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.