Sundays, I’ve come to realize, are a polarizing day. Some might say it’s the scariest day of the week, when all the impending responsibilities you’ve spent the past 48 hours tastefully dodging to make room for the pursuit of the finer things in life come back like ghosts of weekdays past to haunt you. Especially here, on a college campus that's essentially a petri dish for the ubiquitous Sunday scaries, Sundays are regarded with a certain kind of wary disdain.
But I love Sundays—my buffer day, the day when time pauses for just long enough to allow me to actually think. Thinking, I’ve discovered, is best done strolling under the early Sunday afternoon sky, the weightless day that hangs in the balance between the hedonistic weekend and the rhythmic clockwork of the school week.
One particular week, I gave a thought or two to what lay behind my relatively subversive love for Sundays. It all comes back to something elemental: a love of comfort. It’s the day of the week that I most let myself do things that are simply comfortable. Long walks and Sweetgreen visits and hours slipping away unnoticed, filled with self–indulgent conversation and lounging around aimlessly.
Comfort, I'd guess, hasn't been a particularly high priority for most of us for a very, very long time. I’ve spent ages in quietly uncomfortable situations, as I imagine most people who position themselves to go to Penn do. Striving, exerting energy, hustling, whatever you want to call it—hard classes, constant practices and rehearsals, early mornings. I hardly realized how much I was doing in the moment because I loved it, and I still love being busy to a certain degree, but I was doing it without giving a single critical thought to why I felt the need to be in the constant pursuit of something.
Even now, comfort is not something you can have without feeling a stab of shame; you’re not supposed to take classes that you’re comfortable in material–wise, and free time is a suspicious commodity and double–edged sword. This isn't to say that I think that striving in itself is bad, but being comfortable is such a uniquely excellent thing. I’ve found myself using the term “pursuit of comfort” a few times in this article, and my computer autocorrect is practically tugging me in the direction of writing “pursuit of happiness” instead. But maybe they’re not so different. Comfort is a happiness within itself—maybe not a bombastic explosion of serotonin, which we’ve come to associate with happiness, but its low–grade satisfaction that can hardly be replaced or matched.
Earlier in the year, I got in the habit of buying myself cookies, after my discovery of Magic Carpet oatmeal cookies reignited a long–dormant, dare I say childishly regressive, affinity for cookies. They’re not particularly cheap, and neither are the addictive chai chocolate chip cookies from Houston Hall; this reasoning, for long enough, kept me off the cookie train. If I have swipes, I reasoned, why spend real money on something I can get at the dining hall? Plus, my Dining Dollars go so fast—I should save them for the semester.
But eventually, I decided to just stop making things so hard on myself. If I wanted something, I decided, I got it. Now, I spend money at Magic Carpet and my Dining Dollars have dwindled quickly, but I can confidently say that the utility I gained from those cookies in the moment is well worth whatever penny–pinching I may have to take part in at the end of the semester. In terms of cost–benefit analysis of exerting my energy in a particular way, the much—needed sense of comfort each cookie provided me is a particular benefit in and of itself.
Not that the pursuit of comfort is a novel thing—self–care days are the new black, in all their TV–filled, face–masked glory. But all too often, we forget that we need them until it’s almost too late, and try to cram weeks worth of destressing into a single day. My modest proposal is that small comforts on a regular basis are more beneficial than even the most luxurious self–care days; incorporating self–care into a daily or weekly routine allows the satisfaction it brings you to better your daily life.
Obviously, this isn’t something that everyone's able to do—to be self–indulgent is a privilege, and to be able to shrug responsibility off once in a while to luxuriate in small comforts is a lucky thing. But if you have that privilege and the ability to do so, why not enjoy it? I’m good with things being easy, if that’s how they can be.
So lounge around in sweatpants, buy yourself a cookie if you feel like it, walk along the river when you’re “on a run” if you want to—the fact of the matter is, you don’t get a prize for trying the hardest, for putting in the most work. Comfort zones are underrated; let yourself be comfortable once in a while, and don’t begrudge yourself that opportunity because you feel the need to always be productive, practical, or striving. We get in our own ways a lot, and sometimes a tiny thing like a cookie or a sunset stroll is needed much more than you think, especially here and now.
If you were lucky enough, as I was, to grow up in the same place all your life, coming to college might be the first time that you realized how valuable comfort is. It’s something I took for granted at home, and now, being away in a new environment, I have to deliberately make myself comfortable. This is how I do that. Find a space between work hard and play hard, and occupy it every once in a while—you won’t regret it.