To admit to boredom at Yale seems like a sin. But with the beginning of spring, confessions like “I’m over it” and “I literally can’t” become as commonplace among juniors as Instagram posts of cherry blossoms. The “sophomore slump” doesn’t nearly compare to the feeling of capitulation that comes at the end of junior year. Even though nearly all juniors, myself included, experience this mid-college crisis, we resist discussions about an explanation or a remedy. As someone who has always been affected by her environment, I have wondered whether my feelings are sprouting with the new season. When the temperature rises, insects re-emerge from hibernation, migrating birds fly home and buds begin to swell. Each spring, nature is reborn. The fate of Yale juniors in April, on the other hand, is more like a winter of discontent. With the stress of senior societies, paper drafts and final exams, I selfishly wonder, where is my seasonal rebirth?
While stress-eating pastries at Atticus last week, I panicked, not only because I had come to the last bite of my triple chocolate cookie, but also because I realized that there was less than a month left in the school year. As I waited to sign the check, I began to reflect. What was it about the beginning of spring that made everything seem so dull? By April of junior year, our lives can begin to feel monotonous. For me, classes seem longer, my favorite chicken curry from House of Naan is so familiar that it has lost its taste and the conversations I have with my friends (“I can’t Woads, I need to study” *Woadses anyways,* “I hate drama,” “I need a nap,” etc.) seem scripted due to their constant repetition. I find myself spending more and more time holed up in my room, resisting the outside world by any means necessary. Although I hoped that my anxiety about dullness would spark some mind-blowing assertion about a larger societal issue at Yale, I understood that the lacklusterness that juniors experience is a result of something as simple as boredom, a state that psychologists define as “the aversive experience of wanting, but being unable, to engage in satisfying activity.”
For me, an awareness of my boredom quickly lead to guilt. How could I possibly take such an outstanding education for granted? With that in mind, I began viewing my current mindset as a personal failure of sorts. While I typically work until I burnout, this semester has been different. Previously, I pushed myself so hard that activities I once enjoyed, like photographing for the News or attending a friend’s improv show, became duties that I felt I would be worse off for attending. During moments that I should have cherished, I found myself checking my calendar and outlining papers in my head. This semester, however, I’ve had the opposite reaction to that burnout: Doing the bare minimum. I learn whatever will be discussed in seminar or examined on a test, show up for class and then forget it. In doing so, I’ve lost the pleasure I always found in learning. Many of my fondest memories at Yale occurred inside the classroom: Pushing my creativity through a found object sculpture crafted only out of hair rollers, barbies, gum and tinfoil; conquering my high school fear by reciting Chaucer’s Prologue to “The Canterbury Tales” publicly; and finding actual pleasure in reading “Moby Dick” (even the parts about blubber), to name a few. In those moments, I found a balance between burnout and a love of learning. While it is disturbing that I have so rarely found myself at the equator between these two poles, I resolved to adjust my mindset and conquer the disillusionment that tends to overwhelm juniors in April.
Friedrich Nietzsche once famously asked, “Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?” While I am not inclined to reject Nietzsche, I don’t believe boredom is wasteful. Boredom catalyzed my disillusionment and spurred my resulting resolution. I woke up the next day with determination to resist my hermit-like ways and leave my room. I adventured to a pastry shop 20 minutes away from campus just to delight in the simple pleasure of an almond croissant, savoring every butter-laden layer of dough with newfound appreciation. I walked in search of signs of spring as I listened and sang along to The Strokes so loudly that a stranger on the sidewalk laughed at me. I read Macbeth outside of the Yale University Art Gallery instead of skimming online summaries inside a sterile cubicle in Bass Library. I submitted an opinion piece for the News that reminded me of my passion for writing. For the first time all semester, I found myself overwhelmed with intellectual curiosity and elation. Malaise, of course, is a universal sensation, and my own experience as a Yale junior is just one iteration of that human phenomenon. That being said, I would suggest that, instead of acquiescing to that perpetual feeling of boredom, you find your own rebirth this spring.
Rebecca Finley is a junior in Silliman College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .