There’s something transformative that occurs throughout the month of August.
You don’t notice when it approaches, riding the high of the continuing summer months. I had just gotten used to the ability to do whatever I wanted, not having something expected of me, and the ability to soak in the sun that finally graced Berkeley. I was reading books that I had put off for months, filling my days with friends and, finally, in what feels like forever — I was getting enough sleep. Everything seemed brighter and I felt like I had control, that I was healing and everything was falling into place. I felt like myself again.
There’s a youthful regression that occurs every summer for me. It’s the privilege of spontaneity and recklessness that I can’t really afford during the school year when I have every second of every day planned out meticulously on my Google Calendar. There’s something so freeing in all responsibilities being halted for a few months. The world opens up in a way that seems much more exciting and tangible than it did before. It felt like summers when I was younger before I valued the simple activity of laying around and not thinking; That at any moment I could get up and go on a great adventure.
All of a sudden the world reminded me that I actually do go to school. Campus became filled with returning students, the financial office started reminding me of my fees that I refused to look at (oops) and there was just a looming sense of doom. It was all warning me that my summer was over and the darkness that I associated with the fall semester would be returning.
It’s not as dramatic as I’m portraying it — I do feel a sense of relief that I’ll have something to do and it’s going to be my last year at UC Berkeley. I love my major and learning — I just feel a great loss for the person I am in the summer. She’s so much more fun and outgoing, unmoved by expectation and insecurity that is reserved for the school semester.
I so strongly associate fall with fear and loneliness. I’ve had many first days of school and as I progress more into my academic career, I dread it more and more. I get so afraid of the stress and seclusion of my own shortcomings. I worry that as the responsibilities crush me beneath them as they do every year, I start to ignore my friends and family. I get stuck feeling like I don’t deserve free time and that I shouldn’t have it at all if I did. This obsession with work and progress makes me feel like I need to be doing the most, catching up with my peers, or rather, competing with them.
It’s not like this seclusion from the people I love even benefits me academically. I end up in such a dark place, feeling like a bad friend and consumed by my own negative assumptions of what they could possibly think of my neglect, and that my grades were affected poorly too. It’s a cycle I find myself in, trying year after year to try and care less. It’s superficially a caustic piece of advice to attempt to follow, to care less about this career that I feel really important about. However, I think I can still highly value the work I do academically while balancing a healthy social life, returning to the version of myself I liked so much more over the summer.
What I want to work on most is seeing my friends more. Although going on elaborate dates and spur of the moment adventures may not be as easy to accomplish, there is still fulfillment found in smaller moments. Some really great ways to show the people that you care about them, even amidst the chaos of the semester, include going out to get food, study dates in the library and short picnics on the Glade. I seem to forget that they are also crippling under the same stresses that I let consume me, and that there are actually so many school-related things that we could do together. It’s the effort and simple presence that really matters, as it does much more for my soul than I think to just be near them doing mundane things.
I want to also work on my communication. I want to reach out to my loved ones when I’m having a difficult time. There’s such an embarrassment or shame that I’m trying to combat in admitting that I’m falling behind or I’m not in a good place. Instead of thinking that it would cause a drift, I think it would bring us closer together. I need to extend my trust that they not only understand, but are able to help me through such a phase.
I think with actively working on balancing my school and social life, a good fall really is possible. I have to reject the idea that taking time for myself and those around me requires falling behind and risking my grades. Both are able to be fulfilled when I practice healthy time management with regard to my mental health as opposed to at the expense of it.