15 February 2015
“and i ask myself, why do homework when i can eat fruitsnacks instead”
29 September 2015
“to the tune of 'feeling myself' i'm losing my shit, i'm losing my shit, i'm losing, losing my shit, i'm losing my”
22 October 2016
“haha wish i had the energy to feel myself & look put together! haha wish i didn't just get more & more exhausted w each day of the semester!”
Every semester, I threaten to take the next semester off. I joke that I should just drop out. I follow impossible lines of thought: I dream of going home to hang out with my grandmother, of working to save up enough money to travel for a bit. I dream of taking time off of school to work and read and write—to have enough energy to do what I actually want to do. It’s a romantic dream, sure, and maybe not in my best interests. The same things that dog me here will dog me “in the real world,” but nevertheless this is what I want: to get out of here.
I really want to like college. Every semester, I hope my feelings will change and that I won’t just scrape by, exhausted by the workload. I picture myself doing my readings, writing good essays, being a good leader in the organizations I’m a part of. I will read for pleasure and write what I want to in my spare time. Save for the usual curveballs of mental health, I will be happy and satisfied enough. Unfortunately, these hopes don’t pan out. Instead, I wind up condensing my hopes and expectations for myself and doing the minimum to finish the semester alive and not totally burned out.
With time, I came to understand that even if I took good care of myself I would be dead tired by the end of each semester. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make the structure of college work for me.
When people ask, I explain my struggles with college by framing them in terms of priorities. I say: college prioritizes academic and organizational success, not inter/personal growth. I don’t care about the things college wants me to care about and as a result, I have to sacrifice my commitment to my friends, my health, and my community to succeed here. Mount Holyoke’s social currency is overcommitment and achievements that fit within the bureaucracy of the school, not personal growth or the emotional work of nurturing relationships with friends and yourself. In my time at Mount Holyoke, I’ve juggled these conflicting sets of priorities to the best of my abilities. Once, this meant failing a class to avoid further burn out. Other times, it’s meant being less present in my relationships than I’d like.
For me—and I suspect for many others—staying alive and functional enough to get through each semester requires an enormous amount of work. Due to physical and mental chronic illness, my baseline energy level fluctuates. As a result, I am unable to constantly or even consistently prioritize academic and organization success. For me, the assumption that I could perform well academically throughout the semester is only that—an assumption. The reality is that most of the time, I’m putting most of my energy/spoons into making sure my friends and I are keeping afloat.
The non-recognition and devaluation of the emotional work required by many to (try to) be functional at Mount Holyoke is part of a larger problem of what is deemed “useful” and “productive” in a capitalist society. Capitalism as it is iterated in academia asks that we produce and get commodities like papers, grants, internships, leadership roles in organizations, and appearances at social events on campus. On the other hand, inter/personal achievements that can’t be converted into Mount Holyoke’s social currency—like checking in with a friend to make sure they’ve eaten lunch or taking a weekday evening off to cuddle with friends—are harder to commodify and thus to recognize.
So what are you supposed to do when you fail to produce academic commodities? In other words, what happens when you don’t have enough spoons to go to class or turn in a paper? What happens when, no matter what how much you try to take care of yourself, you find yourself almost completely depleted by the end of the academic year?
The best I can do is learn to not feel guilty. I can’t play the game of college well and that’s okay. I am alive and more or less okay, trying to acknowledge all of the emotional work that living requires. That’s all any of us can do.
As for me, this semester is my last.