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Relax and Restore

Simple joys relieve the stress of everyday life

Itensity has long been a defining thread of the Swarthmore experience. Indeed, students, staff, faculty, and alumni take pride in their ability to stretch and challenge themselves and one another intellectually and personally.

Without question, this commitment to hard work leads to pathbreaking research, innovative thinking, transformative collaborations, and lifelong friendships.

While a passion for knowledge and commitment to ideas and ideals is laudable, the sheer pace of life can be relentless. Finding those fleeting moments that restore us while doing the important work we are called to do is critical—sometimes even fun.

My special source of joy is an exuberant golden retriever named Qhubeka. (Her name is a Nguni word that means “to move forward.”) Because my travel schedule prevents me from having my own dog, I have happily taken on the role of “godmother” to this gorgeous puppy with soulful eyes. Qhubeka lives with her parents, John ’66 and Paula Lawrence Wehmiller ’67, a few blocks from campus.

Smart, funny, willful, and enthusiastic, Qhubeka exists entirely in the moment. She doesn’t hide her affection or her playful curiosity. According to Paula and John, on her daily walk she waits patiently at the end of the driveway of Courtney Smith House to check if I’m home. She likes to “count her people.”

Time spent with Qhubeka is a temporary oasis from the rush of life and work that has unexpectedly enriched other parts of my life.

Without the occasional break and time to relax, reflect, play, or do nothing, periods of intense work can contribute to high levels of stress. Joy, on the other hand, has a way of creating a ripple effect, and helps to rejuvenate us. As the author Alex Soojung-Kim Pang has observed, “You cannot work well without resting well.”

At Swarthmore, a number of campus initiatives are underway to help students, faculty, and staff achieve greater balance in our lives. The Matchbox and the newly renovated Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center provide members of our community with popular spaces where they can recharge and socialize. Our plan to reimagine Sharples Dining Hall as a campus commons will create yet more opportunities to unwind. Besides accommodating students at mealtimes, this new facility will become a place where they can relax and take breaks; gather and foster relationships with others; and engage in creative group activities.

At this moment in our national and global culture, we can find many causes for concern and consternation. The pace of the news cycle and the expectations of connectivity work against our intentions to reflect and restore. Moreover, our lives carry their own rhythms of joy and pain, celebration and loss.

My wish for everyone in our extraordinary community of learners and doers is that we all find and cherish our restorative moments. Like the meaning behind Qhubeka’s name, let’s together be inspired to “move forward” with curiosity, enthusiasm, and the intention to live in this moment.