Column Ilja: Airing

It is quite the challenge: staying sane during your thesis.

I have chained myself to my desk for days on end, attempting to resolve the statistics riddle of my thesis. My only consolation is that I (the warden) allow myself (the prisoner) an hour to air for grocery shopping each day. Those fifteen minutes of walking, shopping and fifteen minutes to return is the perfect stroll around the block. Whether a daily trip to the supermarket is financially sound is a different question; grocery shopping is one of my more expensive hobbies. My shopping tote with my wallet already in it hangs by the door like a puppy begging for its daily walk.

Strolling through the store without a plan, goal or list during the quiet hours relaxes me as much as a walk through nature. The effects nature has on humans are attributed to the concept of soft fascination, which is best described as nature having rugged and unpredictable forms in reasonably predictable patterns and (almost) never forcing us to focus. The maze of shelves remains a paradise of opportunities. This supermarket hides the eggs in a different spot every month for no good reason, so it benefits my memory as well. The search keeps me focused.

During this hermit stage, it is all too easy to withdraw from the world

During my relaxed search, where there are no limits to what I can and can’t do, I can shed the constant focus a thesis analysis demands. During this hermit stage, it is all too easy to withdraw from the world and to stare a hole through your statistics programmes with laser focus. ‘Sorry, I’m doing my thesis’ is a normal and widely accepted excuse among students, met with ‘been there’ or ‘wow, sounds tough! Good luck!’. Thus, you can feel good about working really, really hard, just like the rest. Meanwhile, the eggs have been found, and I am on my way back home. As soon as I insert the key into the lock, the focus on statistics re-emerges. That was today’s break. Now to dive back in.

Ilja Bouwknegt is 24, a bachelor’s student of Forest and Nature Management, and an active member of the study association WSBV Sylvatica. She sometimes does bat research at night.

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