It's that time of year again.
We're a month into Spring Quarter, and everyone seems to be at least a little out of sorts for one reason or another. Whether it shows up in being irritable, depressed, stressed out, or in existential crisis, the advent of spring here at Northwestern does not seem to do people well. There's drama, restlessness, deep pondering, and all sorts of fun stuff. Okay, granted, two years is not exactly a scientific sample size, but just let me make my sweeping generalizations, okay?
I think first of all there's a little bit of resentment in all of us as we see our friends from other schools one by one make their way home, and we know that we're here in Evanston for an extra six weeks. As much as we may love being here, there's something about being left out of the journey home (and something about having six more weeks of class!) that makes us feel like we're not in the right place.
Then there's the way that the start of the quarter makes us conscious of the year coming to a close. We don't feel it much during Winter Quarter, which feels like the middle of the year the whole way through. But coming in out of break, Spring Quarter is very clearly the last quarter of the year. Making our way through it, and pondering class schedules for the fall, we think about the year reaching its end. This prompts us to think about the past, and about the future.
Especially for freshmen, I think, it's a time to look back on the first year of college and evaluate what you've done, who you've gotten to know, how you've changed. It's a very reflective time of year, and sometimes you don't see exactly what you wanted to see in yourself. It's a real time to evaluate friendships and relationships, too, and ask if they're everything you hoped they'd be. Upperclassmen do this as well, but we also are thinking about the future, more and more the older we get. And the older we get, the more stressful it is.
There's a little more irritability in the air, too, thanks to how much time we've spent with the same people. Things that used to get on our nerves a little bit start getting on our nerves a lot, and things that never used to bother us start to be irritating. We snap at people we care about who annoy us sometimes, and are ready to crucify people we don't like.
A third set of classes, especially when students at other schools are heading home, feels somehow more draining and uninspiring than the same classes would in the fall. We stress out about getting the work done, about the summer, and about our plans for our academic careers as we schedule new classes. We take on new responsibilities as dorms and student groups transition in the spring, and feel those added pressures, too.
I see this general spirit in most of my friends, and it's interesting to see who manifests it which way. I think that there's a mix of irritability, depression, stress, and self-reflection in everyone, although certain characteristics may be dominant for certain people. It harkens back to last year, when we would suggest having bowls of Prozac on the tables, and when, for a while, euchre games were more often than not irritable and totally devoid of fun.
I suppose it might seem condescending (perhaps that's not the word I want; some other of the negative variety would work) of me to sit here analyzing my friends' moods, especially in the framework of some grand unproven hypothesis. I do it with love, if that helps. It's part of how I try to make sense of what people I care about are going through. And I just find it an interesting psychological exercise-- I agree, psychology is not bullshit, Kim!-- to think about what factors contribute to a trend not only among many people but from year to year.
As for myself, I'd say I suffer from only a mild case of the Spring Quarter Blues. I pretty much emotionally trauma-ed myself out at the beginning of the quarter, and so anything else to deal with now is small stuff. I mean, sure, I'm doing the whole reflective thing, but then again, I am an intensely reflective person, as you may have guessed from reading my long series of self-reflective journal entries here-- self-evaluation and relationship evaluation is really a year-round process for me. Mild irritability, a touch of stress, but I don't think it's anything major. Although if those around me care to differ, I'm sure it's possible I'm exhibiting more symptoms than I think!
I must qualify all of this, before I finish, by saying that the act of writing about this exaggerates its importance. For those of you who aren't here to see it, or for those of you who are and are asking yourselves if I'm on crack, I don't mean to suggest that life here is miserable this quarter and we can't stand eachother. On the contrary, much of the time it's not really a noticeable problem. But there's just a little added drama, a little added self-evaluation, a little added depression, a little added irritability that shows up every once in a while. I think it wouldn't hurt for everyone to be a little more sensitive to everyone else for a while.
And if I learned anything from last year, it's that this mood will pass as the quarter nears its end. As summer comes closer, we'll remember more and more to cherish the time we have left before we scatter across the country for three long months. Thinking about being away from our friends will bring out feelings that will help us realize what we mean to eachother. And as we realize how much we'll miss life here, it'll seem less tiresome and routine, and more like something to enjoy until the last drop.
23 October, 2002
Intellectual Property Rights denounced by Britt Gordon-McKeon, 2002