It’s been about four months since I was a real person.
I know that because all my real person time scales have been out of whack for about that long—for instance, at the moment, it’s been three months since I’ve had breakfast. It’s been five weeks since I’ve been to CVS (and, consequently, it’s been about two weeks since I started using that last little bit of toothpaste at the bottom of the tube when I brush my teeth, which provides never enough paste per serving but still seems to have an endless amount of servings—a fact that is strangely comforting). It’s been about six weeks since I’ve checked my mail and about three seconds since I’ve checked my email. And it’s been between 24 and 48 hours since any kind of water—shower, faucet, or otherwise—has touched my skin.
The looming deadlines and workspace flexibility of academic work means that there is always something you can do—there is no set downtime. So while working or partying takes priority, all real world things go to the wayside, and students end up looking like a tired, hungry, sweat-caked army in the 16th week of an academic siege—or rather, at the end of a brutal four-month semester.
But an important question arises from all of this: What happens when we don’t just sacrifice practical concerns for our academic work? What happens when it makes us lose a whole lot more?
Here’s what I mean: On the last day of classes last week, I walked out of lecture from Sanders Theatre, thinking about what was for lunch (grape pizza?), when a freshman acquaintance of mine came up to me and asked, “How does it feel to be halfway done?”
I reacted with grace and keen insight: “What?”
She responded, “You know. You’re done with sophomore year. You’re halfway done.”
My mental response shared in my vocal eloquence: “Balls.”
There was good reason for my sudden eloquence—in the couple of weeks leading up to reading period, I had a bit of mid-college crisis. And that crisis relates to the very bottom of this column.
If you look down there, you’ll notice a couple of things. The first is that the Crimson uses italic font in its attributions. And the second is that I concentrate in English. The crisis is about that last bit. I’m thinking about switching to Astrophysics. And if I did that, I would have to make that decision fairly soon in order to graduate on time.
So suddenly, walking out of Sanders, I had to face the fact that it was reading period. It was the beginning of the end of the semester—or rather, that it was the beginning of the end of the middle of college. And I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
What’s worse was I had finals to study for and papers to write. I had to try to tame my thoughts, blocking off all the larger concerns in favor of the smaller, more current ones.
But then another question arose: If not now, then when? When can I think about my future?
Summers and breaks always seemed like a good time to address larger concerns, like one’s academic path. But, then again, you easily get busy with family or an internship or anything else going on, and your thoughts tend to drift away from the campus you no longer occupy. And then when you get back and take classes in new interesting things, and suddenly you’re stuck in a similar rut, without a break to think.