Behind the sunburn
The trip would not have meant much—just a four-hour car drive leading to a sunburn. With summer well on its way, it was a scorching hot day. Still, I found myself basking under the afternoon sun, burying my toes in warm sand and catching the waves. The waters were serenely rolling upward from the ocean’s surface, calmly advancing toward me. After sweeping by, sea-foam lingered to fizzle around me, clinging to my hair as I laid my head back. The sky I found above me was clear and bright.
I cherished every moment, capturing everything in my mind down to the little details. I knew these memories were like hard candies—sweet, lasting, and in especially difficult times, sucking on one is enough to survive the day.
Looking back, weeks before the trip felt like waves, too, but they were far from serene. They were a relentless rush of stress from balancing online class and work. It got like this sometimes. All my tasks pile up and hit me all at once: the lectures to catch up with, the paperwork, the assigned write-ups for publication. It became increasingly difficult to remember why I love what I do. Before, I was filled with energy and excitement as I signed up and took these responsibilities as a student and writer. Great possibilities and achievements flashed in my mind, painting a vivid picture. In visions, I created masterpieces, wrote remarkable works, and amassed literature that contributed to society.
Perhaps it would be easier if everything did not transpire on a screen. Sitting down in a solitary room to face a laptop for the most part of the day drained more than just battery. I found it ironic—walking to school before was not as tiring as sitting around. Maybe it was the fact that I had been surrounded by friends, the vast space for growth, or the comforting feeling of normalcy that sustained me before the public health crisis. Friends, space, and normalcy—if only I were surrounded more by these than a monitor’s light, maybe motivation would be simpler to find and keep.
Instead, each day became increasingly dull and lifeless. I woke up, trudged five steps toward my desk, then retraced my pace at nightfall, only to do it again after sunrise. It became a routine and there is no knowing when I can finally break from it. I was tempted to take some things off my plate and give up. It was as if my mind was telling me to loosen the grip on my responsibilities, maybe let them go for good.
Suddenly, my family planned a trip to the beach. It was just for a day and a half over the weekend, but for someone who has not gone on vacation for almost two years since the pandemic, it was more than enough. Time crept slowly on that beach, allowing me to treasure each passing minute. Still, I felt that I could float around with my eyes closed in those tranquil waters for a longer time knowing that soon, I would be back in my room to stare at a screen.
When the weekend was over, we drove away from the ocean with me feeling downcast. However, when I reached home and came back to my responsibilities, I felt lighter and more spirited. Somehow, while I was pushing aside all my worries during the trip, I gained the energy I needed to take them on.
So, as I rode out all the waves, both the serene and rough ones, I realized that those tough times were never a sign to give up. It was a signal for something much better: rest. For some, it only takes a good night’s sleep, a chat with friends, or a masked walk outside. For others, it would take a longer time, days or weeks before getting back on track. These things could revitalize. What’s more, they could be memories, feelings, and experiences to hold on to when it feels simpler to give up. When going back to work again, it would be easier to go all out, make every effort, and put one’s heart into every task, knowing that the time for rest was bound to come again. It did not matter how it was done or how long it took. The important thing was to get back the capacity to dream and pursue it.
For me, the kind of rest that did the trick was the long drive, the ocean, and yes, even the sunburn. Besides, I would gladly take a sunburn than a burnout any day.
Fatima Baduria, 19, is a communication student at the University of Santo Tomas. She writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction for a student publication.
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