Ariane de Gennaro
It’s 1:45 a.m. on a Sunday night (well, technically, a Monday morning) and you hear the much-dreaded announcement through the Bass Library speakers telling you to “make your way towards the exit.” “Have a good night,” they tell you. “Good night?” you ask yourself, thinking of all the lectures you need to catch up on in order to complete your pset. Does it make sense to complete all the readings first, or should you study for your quiz and then try to finish your book in bed? Oh shoot, you also need to find time to do laundry. Trying to keep your eyes open, you pick up your books and let your feet drag you to your residential college’s common room: the sixth different study spot of the day.
It’s that time of year again. When 24 hours in a day does not feel like it’s enough. Midterms, papers, the sudden fall in temperatures, the never-ending extracurriculars, all accompanied by the constant headache and coughs that prevent you from getting the already limited sleep you’re trying to get. It’s a weird feeling, a combination of physical and mental exhaustion. At least you know everyone else is in the same situation. Misery loves company.
I believe what makes midterm season even more challenging is that it roughly marks the three-month period of being at college. With Thanksgiving break coming up, most students have been away from home for a very long time. As the orange leaves disappear and the temperatures begin to fall, students are left with a feeling of nostalgia. For me, my first three months of college have been the longest, and farthest, I’ve ever been away from home.
Nov. 5, the weekend before all of my midterms, marks the first time I’m not with my sister on her birthday. She turns 16. I remember my 16th birthday — it was right before COVID-19 hit. I remember tearing up during my surprise birthday party and coming back to my room only to see the balloons my sister had blown up. One of the toughest parts of college has been being away from her; not being in the same time-zone, not being there to help her get through any minor inconvenience. I face the reality of distance as I see photos of her blowing out her candles sent to the family group chat.
Nov. 10, the Commemoration of Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. I guess this is where I need to explain I’m from Istanbul, Turkey. I’ve lived in Istanbul my whole life. Every year, we remember the first president of the Turkish Republic in respect, gratitude and awe; we stand for a moment of silence at 9:05 a.m., the exact time of his passing. I’m used to life stopping at that time: at school we have a ceremony, if you’re in traffic you park your car and stand on the sidewalk. Whatever you’re doing at 9:05 on Nov. 10, you stop and stand for a minute, fighting goosebumps and tears, as the siren all over the country sounds for a minute. This year, when it was 9:05 in Istanbul, it was 1:05 a.m. here and I was at the Stiles library solving a practice midterm for my math exam. It felt weird that life around me was normal, that nobody even knew what that day meant for my country, my home.
Both days, however, I didn’t have time to dwell upon such emotions; I knew I wouldn’t be able to teleport back home, and I knew I had work to get done. Overthinking wasn’t going to bring me success. I needed to stay productive.
What I am trying to get at through these personal stories is that I think burnout is caused by more than academic work. I love all of my courses, I love writing for the YDN, I love my volunteer activities, I love spending hours in the library with my friends and going to the buttery to get a milkshake. Yet, I still can’t shake off the feeling of vulnerability that this time of year brings. Maybe it’s the constant worry of failure, the imposter syndrome that kicks in from time to time or maybe it’s just that glimpse of homesickness I usually try to fight off by reminding myself how grateful I am to be here. But something doesn’t feel quite right as I force myself to finish my 8-page cognitive science paper. I feel burnt out.
It helps that I love cold weather and that I absolutely adore our campus. Whenever I step outside, I’m filled with peace. I also try to change my study spaces: the Gilmore Music Library, Trumbull Common Room, Silliman Acorn, some reading rooms in residential college libraries, the lower level of Bass and more. I’m having trouble deciding on how to end this piece, because I’m just a first year who’s still trying to figure out college life. There will be highs and lows, and I’ve realized the cycle will always continue. I think I’ve decided the only way around it is by accepting burn out, while making sure you know what makes you feel better and doing your best to fit that into your 24 hours, as well. I genuinely love being here and intend to make the most out of my time at Yale.
Now that it’s officially 12:45 a.m. and I’ve finished writing my piece, I can close my laptop and go to sleep, hoping that I’ve made my way through my first college “burn out.”