So exams are all done, final projects are finished and submitted, and winter break is in full swing. We can finally sit back for a moment, take a breather, and look back at all that happened this semester without the thought of more work looming over our heads. For me, I feel like one word really encapsulates these past couple months more than any other (though overwhelming could certainly apply as well) and that word would be nonstop. It felt to me like every time I completed an assignment or test for one class, I had to immediately jump to start the another task for the next class. Staring at a screen for each class and then continuing each day’s work on my laptop just seemed to make things more drawn out and difficult to finish than usual. There’s no need to rehash the downsides of virtual learning since students of all ages this semester have felt the drawbacks themselves, but I feel it is important to note just how much this semester may have drained us and to use this reflection as a guide for our holiday breaks.
I know for myself, I really began to slip in terms of keeping a balanced day and following my own advice from a previous blog post about the necessity of breaks and getting away from my desk for periods of time. Several of my fellow classmates and I’m sure many more students in general struggled with maintaining a healthy balance during this semester where schoolwork and personal life were so deeply intertwined. I remember seeing lots of “Quarantine Schedules” pop up on my Instagram explore page at the beginning of quarantine last March/April and seeing these outlines for people’s day was both inspiring yet also daunting. While I really wanted to be like these bloggers and other well put-together young adults out there, I struggled for a long time with how, amidst constantly changing circumstances, unknown future plans, and a demanding school load, I was going to follow the kind of regime that they seemed to be doing. And I realized as my tendencies and ways of handling the stress of this semester starting to gradually slip as the weeks went on that I was on a slippery slope of turning the coping mechanisms I used to deal with the fatigue of this semester into habits for the semesters to follow. But with too much continuously going on around me while in my courses, I pushed off dealing with this until I finished my finals. And now that I’m here, I’m a bit stuck at the question of “What now?”
After taking a solid week or so to simply catch up on lost sleep and give myself the break I’d been waiting for since the beginning of October, I’m settling into my idea of where I’d like to go from here. This is not some idealistic list or example schedule like you might see on Instagram or Pinterest from someone who just always seems to have their life completely in order. This is just the miscellaneous thoughts from a second-year computer science student who doesn’t want a repeat of this semester’s practices of being holed up in my dark bedroom coding all day, eating at off hours of the day or skipping meal times to work on something, letting my stress from classes and prolonged screen use affect my personal relationships, and not paying closer attention to my needs as a whole.
I’m planning to sleep healthy amounts, cook dinner for my family more often, go on desert hikes (slow or fast, any pace is better than nothing), read for enjoyment, pet the neighbors cat for an hour or more, go on bike rides, work on some side art projects I put off because I didn’t have time, figure out the best homemade Christmas presents yet, and do all the little things I like. I’m an engineering kid at heart though and I don’t like the feeling of being bored or not having something to my days that makes me think critically, so maybe some days I’ll work on reading up on CS topics that interest me or researching internships or continuing to tutor my 5th grade neighbor. I say maybe because there could be times that work is not what I need at that moment and the most important part of all this is listening to myself on things. It’s not about what it seems other CS students are doing or what my friends are doing. This is what I encourage anyone reading this to think about. You’re on your time now (though family requirements can definitely affect this, I completely understand) and how you choose to deal with the effects of these past several months is your choice. Do what’s best for you and your health! We’ll be back in school before we know it and coming back recuperated and with the right mindset is definitely my main goal during this break. We may have taken a few hits along the way but we survived this semester. We’ll keep pushing through it all next semester too, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take the resilience we’ve built this semester to make it better.