Reflections on the infamous post-midterm season slump

Illustration of a blue, dark scene depicting a burnt out student laying on their books.
Caragh McErlean/File

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I was talking with my dear friend the other day, and we both realized we’ve been stuck in a slump for the past few months. It’s not a challenge to figure out why, between the constant existential dread brought upon by the pandemic and the anxiety induced by the election, not to mention the deprivation of social interaction we’re all facing due to classes being online. Oh yeah, I nearly forgot — the fact that Zoom is simply awkward and so impersonal that it straight up sucks.

Maybe the more privileged of us saw quarantine as a time to reconnect with the people we live with, fall back in love with old hobbies, revel in the time to simply exist while our entire lives were transferred to a virtual format and, counterintuitively, enjoy this strange, brave new world we were entering.

Others haven’t been as fortunate. We’re thinking of those who were laid off from jobs or have no choice but to be exposed to the coronavirus in order to continue making a living. There’s also been tension with roommates, the threat of eviction or just feeling stuck between the same four walls all day.

No matter which side you fall on, and maybe it’s a combination of both, we can all agree the past eight months have felt like one of those terrifying yet weirdly realistic dreams that make you question reality when you wake up.

When I think about it this way, I guess my friend and I feel stuck because we don’t know when we’re going to wake up. Technically I’m going to UC Berkeley, but I’m attending all my lectures from my high school bedroom. Online school is confusing because it’s a blessing and a curse. I’ve found the one thing that helps me stay motivated to follow my school routine from home is to stick to a strict schedule. Like the famous philosopher Socrates suggests, self-discipline is crucial to a happy life. But at the same time, like Jhené Aiko sings, “I can’t get no sleep, no peace of mind.”

I’ve always struggled with practices of self-care, things such as just sitting and doing nothing for once or reading a book from my huge stack of must-reads, and I definitely need to get back into exercising.

The problem is I already know what I need to do to make my life better, more fulfilling and more balanced, but I’m simply stuck. One of my highest-priority “self-improvement” tasks is to greatly reduce my screen time, but unfortunately, that’s now impossible to achieve because my entire life happens online: school, internship, clubs, even my romantic relationship and my friendships. I usually have a resolve at the end of these reflection pieces, but there’s no resolution because I haven’t gotten out of my slump yet. And with the end of the semester quickly approaching, I doubt I’ll get it together by then.

Ultimately, if there’s a takeaway here, it’s that it’s beneficial simply to recognize how you feel. If you feel awful all the time, sit with it, understand it, then make a plan. Writing out your fears and pain helps, but also, talking to a friend can bring you a sense of belonging that you didn’t realize you were missing. It’s scary to be so vulnerable, but deep human connection seems like one of the strongest antidotes we have at our disposal at this time.

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].