If I did not know any better, I would have thought I was in purgatory.
Bleary-eyed and messy-haired, I’d rise long after the rest of the world, staggering down the stairs like something straight out of The Walking Dead. From all the daytime television I consumed, Live With Kelly, The Rachael Ray Show, The View, I might as well have been a mindless zombie. I only found myself leaving this position to go to the gym. Most days the only other sentient being I interacted with was my dog. Any concept of time bled and blurred together, with days seemingly ending as soon as they began and weeks moving at an agonizing crawl. Seldom did I know the date. But what I did know–I was not in purgatory. I was experiencing my first winter break as a college student.
Following the whirlwind of my first finals, I thought there was nothing I needed more than to turn off my brain and go full-blown catatonic vegetable. In high school, winter break offered little relief from the demands of academics. Projects were assigned, homework was given, and midterms were just over the horizon. But now that I was in college, I found myself with nary an academic responsibility in sight. A prospect that might have once enthralled me left me wrought with anxiety. After working like a dog all semester, I had no concept of free time. Any time I would do anything remotely self indulgent–marathon the entire Star Wars series, fire up a video game I had beaten already, watch three hours worth of daytime trash–I would be seized by insurmountable guilt. Time not spent doing schoolwork felt like time wasted. I craved the order and accomplishment that it seemed only school could provide.
If you picture a stubborn dog at the end of a leash, body slack, hackles raised, practically needing to be pulled to get anywhere, you can get an accurate idea of my mental state before going to college. I did not want to be thrust from the environment I knew into the unknown. I never thought I’d be able to call this small dorm room, with its cold white stone walls and droll carpeting, home. I never thought that I, an introvert bordering on what some may call antisocial, would enjoy sharing a space with seven other people. But I did.
This left me feeling a stranger in the home I grew up in. My father would emerge in the doorway, as I wrote late into the night, asking when I would go to bed. I could only stare at him, startled that such things mattered. My mother would bemoan the state of my bedroom, lamenting on if this was how I kept my dorm room. It was then I realized that a bulk of the sovereignty I had come into at school was gone. Under this roof, I was under their rules. Perhaps most of all, it was odd to go into a room and find it silent, left bare with the absence of my suitemates. We kept in touch over break, of course. But there is nothing quite like spontaneous Disney jam sessions or being welcomed by a roomful of greetings after a long day of class.
For the first time in my life, I think I could safely say that I wanted to go back to school. I needed the routine, the workload, the agency, and the community I had come into here at Arcadia University. With the current semester picking up in tempo, I may be led to long for those endless winter days with my girl Kelly Ripa. But I know that I’m becoming my better self here–more independent, more hard-working, more social–and as fun as television binges may be, I cannot let that progress slip away.