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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Counting Down the Days

Before I was shipped off for Bridge Year, I scoured my mind for a great idea for a going away present for my parents. I finally settled on a matching pair of necklaces for me and my mom and a personalized calendar for both of them. I spent hours flipping through our family’s photo albums for cute pictures of us together. It ended up being a fruitful search. I spent a few more hours scanning pictures and then some more online creating the actual calendar. It turned out beautifully; I was content knowing that my parents would have a reminder of when I was coming home hanging on the wall, with cute pictures to distract them from the fact that the date was more than 9 months away. My parents loved it and suggested that I order one for myself. Seeing how well it turned out, I decided to do so with different pictures featuring my friends and family. Though one of my favorite objects in my Indonesian room (along with my batik masks, giraffe sheets, my life saving fan, and my broom), the calendar has become somewhat of a demon of mine.

Hanging on the divider between my bed and bathroom is the objectification of how much time I have left in Indonesia (five and a half months). When I wake up to my rooster and his distant friend having a crowing competition at 6 every morning, I look at the calendar to see what the date is, subconsciously calculating how much time in Bridge Year has passed and how much is left. Sometimes I’ll even stare at the calendar while I work out to youtube videos in my room. There’s not much else to see. Of course, since I’m doing this on a day to day basis, I’m never surprised or particularly pleased by how much time has passed.

As I did at first, you may think that this obsession with how many days are left before I go home indicates that I can’t wait to do so. Maybe it seems as though I am struggling to get through each day and all I think about is the heavenly return to the glorious Newark Airport. This is not the case. I’ve come to the conclusion that this habit is actually the product of my many years of being busy with a million things to do, of the American society which prides finishing tasks and checking off a to-do list. Bridge Year is the biggest thing on my to-do list and when I can check it off, it will certainly feel like a huge accomplishment. But this daily routine of thinking about how much time is left can get pretty annoying, not because I hate having to get through each day, but because the vision of the future where I’ve conquered Bridge Year feels oh so far away. If you have trouble understanding my obsession with the date, perhaps it will be easier to relate it to a similar fixation.

My kindle came preprogrammed to show the percentage of the book read on the lower right corner of the screen. While reading Anna Karenina, a marathon of a book, I would constantly check this little number. It was a reminder of how close, or far, I was from reaching my goal of finishing the book. And it got to me. When I was still only 8% through the book after a few days of reading, I tried to figure out how to get the number off the screen. When I couldn’t, I even resorted to sticking a piece of paper on the number so that I wouldn’t feel like a failure or like I wasn’t trying hard. Eventually, I figured out how to turn this feature off and have since been actually enjoying reading instead of constantly feeling like I’m not getting to the finish line fast enough. If only I could figure out how to stop counting down the days….