Because it was a liberal arts school, they encouraged us to 1) travel or 2) spend that month taking the most fun class we could possibly find--frivolous, in fact, if we could get it. There were a lot of pop-culture classes; I missed out on the Dracula class my freshman year, but got into the Christianity in the Works of C.S. Lewis seminar instead, which meant that we got credit for discussing The Chronicles of Narnia, basically. (We also read Mere Christianity and the first two books from his space trilogy; my point is, it was a lot of fun.) My two roommates (Valkyrie and The Lovely Emily, of whom you have heard so much) did a crash-course production of Romeo and Juliet; Em played the Prince (we had a disproportionately female population) and Valkyrie was one of the multiple-parts players; she was in the opening "Do you bite your thumb at me?" scene, recast as a drunk couple out on the town, and we dubbed her Super Whore, due to her totally fierce belt and the intentional trampiness of the costume in general. ANYWAY. The next semester, Em went sailing on a "pirate" ship--like, the students actually lived on and sailed the boat around the Caribbean for a month. They also did internships one year. Me, I took my Narnia class, a Film and Philosophy class (we watched Blade Runner, Being There, and some Star Trek: The Next Generation, among other things. This was before The Matrix had come out, or we probably would have spent an entire week on that), and an Experimental Film class (studying it, not shooting it). Then I had to do my senior project as a Spanish/French major that fourth year, so we had three weeks of studying Cuban culture, and then, the last week, we actually got permission to go to Cuba. (Educational purposes are one of the few reasons the U.S. government would make an exception. Keep in mind that this was January of 2001, probably the last year restrictions were so mellow.) Most of the week we spent in Havana, although there was a bus tour out to a jungly area that I forget the name of, and then a side trip to Playa Varadero, at which point I realized I had forgotten to pack my swimsuit, said fuck it, and went swimming in a camisole (thick black cotton; I brought it to wear under less-than-opaque shirts) and shorts, because being in the water is my favorite part of being at the beach. I'm too sun-sensitive, due to my antidepressants and my whitey-white Anglo-Celtic-by-way-of-Ellis-Island skin, so I was going to be miserable if I didn't suck it up and Make It Work. (I have a ton of really great photographs--all from disposable cameras; I was not taking an expensive digital camera down there with me--that I need to scan in for y'all.) I had actually never been on a plane, much less left the country, and wibbled about trying to get out of the travel component--I was terrified. But somehow I managed to buck up and go, and as my friends IRL can attest, it's pretty much the only major trip I've ever gone on, and ten years later, I still will not shut up about it. I'm pretty sure they all want me to go somewhere else, just so I'll have something else to talk about.
Anyway. That was not actually what I meant to talk about, but there you are. My point is, your one Janterm class usually went for two, maybe three hours, and sometimes it didn't even meet every day of the week. So you'd have entire afternoons, sometimes entire days, with nothing but what you wanted to do. I loved it. I spent my freshman Janterm curled up under my garish green and pink/orange-flowered comforter with a big pot of Lemon Zinger (this was back when I was really into herbal tea) and a pile of Ray Bradbury books from the school library. That was in our big sunny freshman dorm room--well, I say "big" in that it was a bigger room than the singles we had later; it was tiny for two people to share, but with Valkyrie out rehearsing for Romeo and Juliet, it felt big to me. The three of us lived in a more imposing dorm the next three years; we had a four-person suite (with various fourth roommates) with a single room the size of a shoebox for each of us. The main feature of the suite was a decent-sized common room, and I remember having a lot of time to myself, with all my clippings spread out--except that many of these had a purpose; I was compiling binders of visual references for stories I was writing. (I seem to remember writing my ill-advised X-Files script during one of these terms, in fact.) And my God, was I happy. In fact, that first Janterm helped me realize I was suffering from some kind of chronic, chemically-oriented depression (we eventually rediagnosed it a couple of years ago as bipolar II), because I would start crying out of nowhere, and--since I was otherwise so content--could not figure out why. And that's how I realized it had to be something beyond what was actually going on in my life.
ANYWAY. Ever since college, I've gotten into the habit of thinking of January as an oasis of a month unto itself--like a quiet little house buried in a sound-muffling snowbank. It's too cold to go out and do anything, and everyone's still recovering from the holidays, and you (or at least I) have all those nice new books, so: there you are. Actually, I didn't get any books this year--my family is easing into the gift card tradition nowadays, so I took my funds over to Amazon and got myself some research books for Black Ribbon--a Great Big Werewolf Book of Werewolves to match my beloved Great Big Vampire Book of Vampires (except that the GBWOW is much thinner than the GBVOV, which may say something about their comparative presences in popular culture), as well as a few other things. So of course I forgot to get the two things I really need for the Vampires footnotes, so now I'll have to go back and spend more money. This is bad both in a sarcastic "Oh, woe is me, more shopping, how will I ever survive" way and a "Wow, this is kind of turning into an addictive behavior" way. Yikes. MY POINT IS, I will have plenty of books to curl up with, and hopefully get some work done as well, in my little mental snowbank.