May 2020


This semester has been an odd one, especially with most of us having returned to our homes and families to, quite literally, sit out the coronavirus pandemic. As we approach the end of the semester, this oddness has, if anything, been more emphasized than ever before. 

Rather than the usual last panic of finals, brief moments of relief and return to our homes, we are instead facing the end of what feels like a three-step transition: we have gone from a longer spring break, to classes in exile, to the usual summer. Add this to the fact that the quarantine will likely not end the moment schools let out, and it looks like social situations will likely not change much either, at least at first.

So how are we supposed to handle this transition? To look back on the school year with a sense of closure?

If we want that sense of closure and change, then it, first of all, needs to be there; we cannot keep on business as usual outside of the sudden loss of schoolwork. With the exception of certain things that can simply not be changed—staying indoors (at least for the first months or so), what jobs some of us have managed to hold onto, and any number of other obligations—there should be an effort to shake things up, and planning for that can start today.

Many students know the new sense of laziness that has come with the quarantine. The opportunities and urges to put off assignments, sleep in, and indulge in all sorts of luxuries that are ordinarily out of reach at college are all but irresistible. As we transition from one season to another, then, it is important to break out of these habits; not to give them up entirely, per se, but to slowly build up to better ones or those more suitable to college life.

What habits should those be? It would depend on the person; the important thing is to exchange the sense of apathy that has settled in from the quarantine for a sense of action, of forward momentum. That book you haven’t read, that chore or task that you’ve been putting off, the language you haven’t yet taken the time to learn—all are fair game. Summer as a season is life at its height, the new and sudden-seeming growths of spring replaced with stability and development. Perhaps we should make like the vegetation, and take this opportunity to improve upon our foundations, to make decisions that will help us grow as people.

Things that have been put off because of schoolwork, or in place of time-killing activities during the lockdown, could also now be brought to the forefront. Assuming the quarantine will end before the summer does, there are outdoor activities and interpersonal interactions that should be planned for. Family reunions, going out with friends—especially for events that have been put off, like birthday or anniversary celebrations—hiking trips or even simple trips to the beach; there’s a lot to make up for, and we should look forward to doing so.

That forward perspective is especially key for feeling that transition from schooltime to summertime. If we have such things to look forward to, quarantine or not, then the sense of transitioning from one time to another will be more concrete; it can help us resist the timeless, indefinite feeling that being stuck at home can fill us with.

Some might see this as a sort of sacrilege, and I can’t blame them. Summer is traditionally the time for a break, from school and many of the responsibilities that come with it, so the idea of taking that time to instead do more work is at first glance anathema. And, to be fair, there are still some who would do some good to take a break; many are still going to work even in the height of quarantine, and are in fact perhaps more busy than they would be ordinarily. A break for people in that situation would be welcome and most likely beneficial.

But many have also found their workload reduced, and it is towards those people that this advice, I think, is especially useful. Many of the opportunities for summer rest have been indulged in early, and while the idea of taking advantage of them in their usual time as well is appealing, it has the same sort of appeal that a double-fudge chocolate cake has: delicious in the moment, but a terrible decision in the long run. If the urge is just too strong (as it so often is), then perhaps we can extend the analogy a little bit: we should instead take pieces, one at a time, and be careful about when we do it. If you still want or need rest, I don’t blame you; but it should be dealt with more carefully than before.

The quarantine and social distancing have been an interesting time, ripe for relaxation, worry and self-reflection all, and as we look forward to the end of these times we should start to think about how to take these experiences and use them for the future. They can be things we leave behind, that we use as footstools for our next steps forward, or important lessons that can help us as we proceed. The important thing is to be always moving forward, and there is no better chance to do so than this upcoming summer.

Author: Luke Fredette