The strange thing about spring break once you are out of higher education is, well, its absence. School is effectively always out for summer, and so the approaching week feels like just another few days before April rolls around. Yet even as I attempt to continue my daily routine unfazed by the onset of break, I can’t help but take notice of the palpable changes to our usually bustling campus atmosphere.
Nearly all of my 150 housemates have already flown the coop, off to Cabo San Lucas or Zion National Park. The empty halls serve as a stinging reminder of what UC Berkeley means to this part of town, or perhaps, to all of Berkeley. Northside becomes ominously and disturbingly barren. It immediately becomes clear how much the university and its students sustain the area’s livelihood, like blood pumping life into the veins of the community. By now, most of those cells of vitality are long gone from Euclid Avenue, having decided to ditch that last Friday-morning class in favor of an early start to the week of freedom.
I envy even those of you who took the high road and decided to stick around for that last lecture. Here you are, probably regretting the responsible impulse which lead you here while you also count down the final agonizing minutes of droning delivered by your professor before he or she liberates you. You glimpsed my headshot and peculiarly eye-grabbing title in the paper on the floor and figured that, because any distraction is better than what is on the board, skimming through my ramblings will have to do. I’m here to tell you to appreciate those last minutes as much as the days that will follow. That kind of jittery anticipation and the subsequent catharsis is one that can only be experienced by students at the moment they are released from the clenches of academia (or, put less dramatically, by students at the start of spring break). I don’t think I can truly articulate how much I miss that feeling.
I suppose my spring break never really did look like a Harmony Korine movie, complete with bare, beer-drizzled appendages and the soft melodies of Skrillex. I remember writing a paper on Spring Breakers the semester before last (note the perks of being in a course cross-listed in the film and rhetoric departments). I initially thought the whole movie was a farce, one giant stab at how bizarre and intellectually bankrupt today’s youth is. Once I started writing, though, it became quite clear Korine simultaneously had the intent to paint a picture of paradise: one that was as much tantalizing as it was reprehensible. Nonetheless, I know the window of opportunity for me to make irresponsible decisions on the beaches of Fort Lauderdale has come and gone.
Of course, this debaucherous Hollywood picture isn’t exactly what I envision when I dream of vacation. And, in all honesty, the kind of freedom that my postgrad life grants me now is one coveted by several of my still college-going friends. According to their perception, my life as of late has been a sort of ceaseless spring break. When they mention daunting problem sets or a big, looming paper, I have the fortune of being able to snicker and lend an unsympathetic “That sucks” — usually met by a “Fuck you.” I sleep in until well after 11 a.m., and I’ve binge-watched just about every series there is on Netflix. Moreover, even though it may not be economically convenient, the redeeming quality of working an entry-level retail position is that I can leave whenever I want to, if I am determined enough. For the time being, at least, I don’t have to commit to my low-wage mediocre job as much as an undergrad has to commit to their classes until they reach the four-year mark.
Someone once described to me the strange phenomenon after being out of school for several years that her moods changed with the school year as well as with the seasons. As soon as September struck in the fall, she was overcome by the sort of gloominess that besets a student who’s readjusting to the daily grind of class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. And as soon as May approached, an excitement associated with summer came to her, one that was induced by more than just warm weather.
I think I now understand this phenomenon much better. Even though I won’t be embarking on a big-budget trip this week or really altering my regular schedule in any significant way, I take notice of this strange intermediary period of time that bisects the semester. It represents a change of the times, a new season quickly advancing upon us. The weather is warmer in Berkeley, the sun stays up later and the flora blooms in that glorious spring awakening sort of way. So although my week may not be filled by Britney Spears piano covers, neon bikinis or a cornrow-clad James Franco, I still plan to embrace these random seven days of spring for all of their beauty. Spring break forever, bitches.