Section: Opinion

Don’t lose your mind during finals

By Kelly Reed

Freedom of the mind has been a theme in my life ever since I began school. This year, I found that John Milton and Michelangelo had the same concern. The Lady in Comus boldly says to her seducer, “Thou canst not touch the freedom of my mind,” and Michelangelo pleaded with his father to let him leave school and enter an art academy because his teachers were “interrupting his own thoughts.” This past week I couldn’t help but feel compassion for the Kenyon student body, especially while observing the faces on classmates as paper due dates were laid out and re-articulated.

I have a question I’d like to put before you: is it right to govern our minds as much as we do, when it comes to writing papers and completing assignments, or is it slightly dangerous? Do we force our thoughts because of deadlines? Being forced to think is different from being forced to work, as often during manual labor the mind is able to retain liberty or even to increase it. Do we treat ourselves unkindly without meaning to by retreating to tight dim spaces piled with books, neglecting to greet the sun or reflect on other questions of personal importance?

It’s important to consider what it is to have a free mind, able to roam and enjoy thinking as a true patriot of life, without the pressure of being “bookish” or “intellectual.” When your mind needs a break, I think it’s wise to ask for an extension or put work on hold, if your intention is to give your mind air or become genuinely inspired before you create.

It’s a long-held conviction of mine that the most bookish bursts of inspiration naturally take place in the most mundane settings. The challenge with higher education in general is that it takes incredible works of art and literature and puts them in a world vastly removed from the one where they were generated. What we have to do, to maintain our freedom of mind, is keep ourselves somewhat out and undevoted. What are we ultimately devoted to? My purpose in living might be different from yours, but nonetheless neither of our purposes should be reduced to the successful completion of intellectual feats. Our loyalty to Kenyon should never exceed our loyalty to life.

If it is hard for you to pick up a book without putting your life and blood into its pages, good! Hold onto that camaraderie with an author. Once we do this as students, we’re on another wavelength, and there is no telling how our imaginations may distract us from the task at hand. But there is no shame in this! Our classes exist only to augment our personal pursuit of learning.

As exams come along, keep your mind at ease. Guard your imagination: it is sacred. We are here to have our passions awakened, to come into contact with the sublime. Kenyon can supply us with that original energy and devotion if we put personal growth above the more material success. I hope to go home for break and discuss Paradise Lost with my sisters while drinking eggnog late at night by the fireplace. My project on the epic is like a wardrobe leading me into a Narnia of lifelong pondering. What we are doing here should stay with us and in us; what we produce for it is only the gateway to distinguishing ourselves as imaginative and thoughtful men and women.

Ann Radcliffe’s castle of Udolpho is how our minds should appear before the breathtaking vista of finals: “Silent, lonely, and sublime, it seemed to stand the sovereign of the scene, and to frown defiance on all, who dared to invade its solitary reign.” I believe my Milton professor was speaking on behalf of most professors when she said to me with regard to my ambitious project: “Hold onto yourself. My happiness is your happiness.” I am against the academic pressure Kenyon can cause a person to put on themselves. Keep your mind a temple, even in the thickest battle, and your work will be at its prime.

Kelly Reed ’16 is an English major from Potomac, Md. Contact her at


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