The strife is over, the semester is done and winter has come — finals week has come to an end. The end of December ushers in a flurry of Ubers driving exhausted students to the airport; AC Transit buses are crammed with weary passengers and their carry-on bags. The splendor of College Avenue, lined with Christmas lights and decked out in finery, reflects the true inner joy of UC Berkeley students en route to seeing their families and enjoying a well-deserved break.
Of course, let’s be real here: We’re Berkeley students, and a good chunk of our break will be spent applying for internships. And there’s always that one person who spends their winter break getting ahead on the textbook readings for their classes next semester.
But, for many of us, break was a surreal experience of getting eight hours of sleep and embracing the borderline otherworldly relief of doing absolutely nothing. During the semester, watching an episode of “Cobra Kai” was accompanied by a gnawing sense of guilt. I could have spent that one hour catching up on problem sets, getting in a workout or even contemplating life, but I chose to spend it on watching a bunch of high schoolers kicking each other. But during winter break, watching Netflix feels therapeutic, like recharging my batteries.
The last few days of winter break are imbued with a languid sense of restlessness. We feel dissatisfied doing nothing but unmotivated to do anything. A new semester has arrived, bringing with it a host of responsibilities, woes and thrills. Gone are the days where we could nap after breakfast and lunch. The only naps we’ll be taking will be in Main Stacks after a whole day of studying.
An uncertain future awaits us. Many are debating which major to choose. Others are deliberating what to do with their major. Some are worrying about what they’ll do after graduation. Others are wondering if they will even graduate at all.
The New Year’s blues hit many of us hard. It’s time to get up again. It’s time to analyze what it is we’re getting up for. Where does that superhuman motivation that most campus students have to study and work come from? Where do we get the strength to complete an exam even if we’re sick, sleep-deprived and on our last brain cell?
The answers to these questions are different for everyone. It could be that we are fascinated by the subjects we study. It could be that we are passionate about making the world a little bit better than when we found it. It could be a burning desire to make our mark on the world, to accomplish something and to be honored for it. It could be that we want to be able to provide for ourselves and our families one day. It could be to make our loved ones proud, because nothing in the world is better than seeing them smile.
The New Year’s blues can leave us feeling disempowered and in a reactive state where we lose the momentum to take initiative. We must summon that strength to learn, study, dream big and work hard from somewhere.
For me, that strength often comes from being deeply enthralled by the courses I take at UC Berkeley. There is a singular feeling of fulfillment I get after having a productive day where I feel both challenged and enthusiastic about the work I did. I also want to be able to provide for and take care of the people I love.
This new year, I want to take the time to reflect on what truly matters to me. I want to reflect on how I can make my daily, ordinary actions, such as studying for exams, applying for jobs and writing papers, truly meaningful. I want to reevaluate my goals and chart a pathway to a future where I’ll be working on something I find worthwhile.
It is very likely I will spend a large portion of my life working or studying, so I might as well make it for something worthwhile. In hard times, I hope my ideals will carry me forward. If I discover my ideals and stay true to them in my work and our study, I’ll be able to look back on myself each new year and know that, no matter what, I worked for something worthwhile.