By Oluyemisi Bolonduro ‘23
Well, I did it… I finished my first full semester of virtual Pomona (hopefully just one more to go). To sum up the semester in one sentence: I think I experienced things that I never expected to live during my college years… mainly bad.
This was most evident around finals season. This past semester, I had three papers and one final exam to submit. I love writing, and I loved the content of the courses I took. So, it wasn’t that I hated what I had to work on, but a matter of motivation. We didn’t have a fall break this semester, which usually falls the third weekend of October. Fall break was cancelled because there were plans to be on campus, and removing fall break was one way to reduce travel and exposure to COVID-19. Without that break, though, the exhaustion in October was REAL. Knowing that other students were tired as well, I didn’t feel like I was being unrealistic or falling short despite the circumstances. I would aimlessly scroll through social media thinking, “yeah, okay, I’m within three standard deviations of distress” (don’t ask me why I speak in stats).
During finals week however, this sentiment was not comforting. It was more unsettling and almost… sickening? The thought of so many students suffering and barely making it through the day without breaking down or feeling a rush of stress from impending deadlines was overwhelming. I couldn’t help but ask throughout finals week, “how did it come to this?” Especialllyyy when it was Thursday morning at 3 a.m. PST, and I finally finished my first of three papers (I’m usually in bed at 11 p.m.). There was no specific time when the paper was due, just not after December 3rd, 2020. In some ways that was nice because if I needed the full 23 hours and 59 minutes of December 3rd, my prof couldn’t say anything. But then I thought, “what if they expect it by 11:59 a.m.?!?!?” The guessing game I played with myself was endless. In retrospect, I could’ve gone to bed around my preferred time of 11 p.m. and woken up the next day to finish my paper. But I was too scared to sleep because a) I could lose the inspiration and motivation I desperately needed to write and b) I wasn’t sure if I’d have a headache from the long-term stress and burnout that would prevent me from staring at a screen.
After I submitted my last paper at 11:03 p.m. PST on Friday, December 4th I thought to myself, “dawg… this could’ve been done a week ago or earlier if you had really wanted. You didn’t need to suffer like this.” But that’s a terribly harmful mindset. It implies that I’m at my best at every point of the day, month, year. The routines that have worked best for me in the past have been demolished in quarantine, but I can’t control all of that. With the things I can control, sometimes I’m too tired (physically, emotionally, and mentally) to maintain my structure. Although I love the Disney Princesses, I can’t just wake up to that beautiful, overcast, rainy, Seattle sky (!!!) and carol to the cawing of crows to get my motivation for the day. It was frustrating that even after an accelerated semester with my one *official break* the week before finals, I still felt like I had to have peak performance.
Next semester, we have a spring break on the schedule (but even that wasn’t guaranteed until the end of finals week). To remind myself what a week off feels like, I simply functioned the week after finals were over. I did whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I did a honey mask, made a k/c-drama playlist, started a new K-Drama (Reply 1988), attended Claremont Christian Fellowship’s Christmas party, beat The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild after three years, resumed my mission to learn how to cook everything I enjoy eating out, starting with teriyaki chicken, and finally… I rested. And not the, “ooh-I-gotta-do-something-soon-so-I’ll-limit-this-break” fake rest. I mean my family kept checking in on me because I wasn’t on the go-go-go! and they weren’t sure if I was okay or not (I’m only idle when ill, but that’s a convo for another day).
If you go to my playlist linked above and play “Star Swing” (or any of the Stars… “Star Drawing,” “Star Picture Swings,” “Star Game”) you’ll hear the beat that’s carrying me through winter break. Not like I’m going anywhere in this pandemic, but it’s my happy strolling song while sitting all serene!