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My first weeks at Harvard have been nothing short of a whirlwind. From protracted dinners at Annenberg and frolicking uninhibited at the First-Year Fling to rapid-fire, real-time discussions liberated from a mute button, the world was finally spinning again. It was as if the clock had surged back in time, back to when things were normal and right. I was not sitting around at home, constricted and despondent, fumbling around YouTube anymore. Instead the grass outside was irresistibly green and I was doing, well, everything. I started losing count of the organizations I was in. I decimated burgers from Baby Berg running between class and club meetings. Each Friday night the streets were ablaze and so was I.
Chinese netizens describe a phenomenon akin to my behavior: revenge bedtime procrastination. As journalist Daphne K. Lee summarized in a viral tweet, the term describes the phenomenon in which “people who don’t have much control over their daytime life refuse to sleep early … to regain some sense of freedom during late-night hours.” Having relinquished our daytime (and more than often evening) hours to the incessant humdrum of life, we excavate our nights for excitement, for Netflix, for errantly effusive nights at Brain Break under the pretext of doing work. In the same way, on a larger scale, perhaps I was also taking revenge on the pandemic, in trying to steal back the time that was taken from me.
Then I fell sick.
It started off as a benign cold, but quickly spiraled into much worse. Soon I was coughing and wheezing, even as Color assiduously assured me that it wasn’t Covid-19. Reluctantly I began packing lunches from Annenberg and isolating myself in my room, where I knocked the appointments off my Google Calendar one by one just to listlessly lie in bed.
Overnight it felt like 2020 again. And why did I feel so violently guilty, guilty for doing nothing?
Psychologists seem to affirm this post-Covid pressure I am feeling, this craving for adrenaline. Richard B. Slatcher, a professor of psychology at the University of Georgia, predicts a resurgence of the excess and hedonism of the Roaring Twenties, with millennials and Gen Z Americans spending especially more on average compared to other age groups. It is perhaps the magnitude of this desire for excitement that has retroactively compounded the guilt I now feel. While inactivity might have been forced upon me during the early days of the pandemic, now the fault is uniquely mine, and the choice to stay at home squarely my own.
There is perhaps another distinctively more Harvard-related reason for this guilt. We jumped through many hoops to get here, so we relentlessly capitalize on every opportunity, wring deliverables out of each waking minute. It may be herculean and certainly unhealthy, but three hours of sleep feels like a trophy and a packed Google calendar a symptom of greatness. Even fun is routinely interpreted as raucous parties and spent nights.
The past few days I’ve been using these blank calendar spaces I’ve inevitably stumbled into to re-evaluate my existence. Why should I feel guilty if I am caring for my well-being? Why do I feel the need to overload my schedule and comp for three million things if secretly, deep down, I have no more air to myself?
These are questions that I’ll probably come back to again and again in the coming years, as I continually re-evaluate my purpose and time. But as I stumble through arduous days and swirling nights trying to make up for lost youth, I will do my best to remember one thing — I didn’t come to Harvard to suffocate.
Next week you’ll find me in the Yard again, or on Mass. Ave., or wherever the sun goes. But some evenings, some empty mornings, I’ll also be cloistered in bed with the duvet pulled close, watching Squid Game or simply staring at the ceiling. Either way, I hope I will be smiling — thriving within and beyond my blank spaces, breathing easy.
Jovan Lim ’25, a Crimson Editorial comper, lives in Wigglesworth Hall.
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