Break Time

My early memories of break time are running at the top of my lungs at the school garden. I loved the speed of running, being caught or catching, in a silly game like tag, which I understand now was an excuse to let off steam.

I was a city girl, an Istanbulite, which meant that my school was a huge cement structure with a cement garden, hidden behind some trees that blocked the view from the street. Although cement, I was lucky to have the huge space in front of the school building that gave us the reign and access to run freely.

I would fall often and come home with new bruises on my knees. I remember falling one day pretty badly and sliding away on the floor by the might and force of my own body. That day I had come home with bruises not only on my knees, but also on my chin, my hands and elbows.

My parents would worry about my simple wounds and bleeding, and I would feel like a rebel. My wounds mean that I had played, that I had run, that I had chased and been chased. My wounds would symbolize the freedom of break time.

Not every break time would give us the same freedom - sometimes we would only have 5 minutes between this class and that class. I remember then the chase would be for candy, for chocolate, for water, for seeing that friend I had in that other class, for running up to the second floor to see if I could catch a glimpse of that boy I had a crush on.

I feel a ping of sadness as I remember the breaks I had as a child. Look at our break times now. What breaks do we get as adults?

Cigarette breaks (if you smoke), bathroom breaks, gossip breaks. Lunch breaks, if you are not forced to sit and eat with colleagues. Coffee breaks, if you are not sick of the office coffee. Then, of course, for a few weeks every year, we get the free reign and access of our money and airplanes, and we fly ourselves to shiny destinations.

None of this matches the pure delight and mystery of the wind on my face as I ran across the school garden or the blood rushing to my cheeks as I caught a glimpse of my crush on the second floor. None of this feels like the explosive laughters and spreading joy of being a child on a break.

Being an adult on a break is simply boring.

We don’t actually get a break.

Lately, I’ve been watching my fatigue and boredom as they arise, noticing my need of a break, and asking myself: What would I truly like to do right now?

Not one of my habitual escapes (Netflix, Instagram, reading articles). Not an attempt to finish tasks I convince myself are not work (archiving inbox items, washing the dishes, putting things away).

A true break.

What would it look like?

Picking up my colorful markers and my mandala book, lying down on my kilim, starting to color while pondering on a quote about life. Deciding moment to moment which little empty white space I should color next.

Meeting a friend spontaneously, sitting down on a shaded terrace, placing our mugs next to each other, and watching how things unfold as two humans meet in this spacetime that will never again be.

Getting out of my apartment with no plans of where to go, with no items to buy, with no task to cross of a to do list. Taking only a bit of money and my sunglasses. Walking.

The common thread between these answers is letting my mind roam, changing my space and angle, and giving my body a simple task like talking or walking. Each break, if done in this way, could fill us with excitement and inspiration. In fact when I take breaks like this, I soon rush back to my computer afraid the wonderful ideas I had during the break will escape me.

It seems to me that learning how to take delightful and mysterious breaks is as important as learning how to work. We can all revisit our childhood, remember our happy break times, and bring some of those elements to our adult life.

Go back to the start: Containing Work When Working For Yourself