They were exhausted. Weeks of a slow, never-ending toil sucked the life right out of their once-ambitious eyes, and yet the end was nowhere in sight. As they felt the last sliver of life ebbing away from their souls, they craved one and only one thing — a spring break.
Yes, I’m talking about me and my suitemates, just a couple of regular Yellowjackets. And no, this is not an exaggeration. They say that when the well is dry, you know the worth of the water that was once in it, and that is the epitome of spring break. In a long-forgotten time, the spring semester was a much simpler, doable academic period that seemed almost surmountable because of this one little week-long break that we were blessed with. This year? We are all forced to beg for water in the middle of a desert.
Spending my days trying to meet scores of deadlines, cooped up inside my room, I almost forgot that this is about the time when Rochester weather takes a turn for the better. Days are getting longer, but the sunny days that beckon me outside are no match for my endless Gradescope assignments. Snapchat memories started piling up — memories from a bygone age when I actually spent spring break outside, enjoying life in the cheapest Airbnb I could find. It still seems unreal to me — has it already been two months since this term started? It all seems like one big blur punctuated by midterms and deadlines.
In this “new normal,” it’s tougher than ever not to feel overwhelmed. When your entire life exists on a laptop and you see the same three people every single day, it gets tougher and tougher not to imagine what could’ve been without the pandemic. Would we have had less material to cover than what’s stuffed in numerous learning modules by professors trying to compensate for this online environment? Would we have had actual festivals on campus as an excuse to go outside? And would we have had that golden period of time we call spring break?
Yes, we would’ve. The so-called “study breaks” we’re being compensated with aren’t real, and so-called “online-student inclusive” events don’t seem worth going to when everyone has already fallen prey to Zoom fatigue. The new normal just isn’t working.
Is there even a solution? How do we get through this burnout? Will we survive? Maybe we just will. If we force ourselves to ignore those looming deadlines for just a few hours, go out in the sun, and find joy in the smallest of things, we might get through this.
Maybe if we reward ourselves with a trip to our favorite ice cream place every once in a while, muster some gratitude when we find our favorite cereal at Hillside, and trick ourselves into a state of bliss momentarily — we’ll get through it all. Burnout is real, my friends, but don’t forget: so are the reasons to smile!