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Student Blog: Burning Out In The Snow

Attempting to Cope With the Spring Semester Slump

Student Blog: Burning Out In The Snow

It's snowing in Meadville right now, and I'm trying my best to ignore it. It's not like I wasn't expecting it; I've lived in this area for twenty years now (the only twenty years I have, as a matter of fact) and the late spring snowstorm is a common Pennsylvanian annoyance. The chilly, grey, miserable weather seems to be reflecting my mood. Am I controlling the seasons? I woke up to the frigid glare of an inch of lake effect on the ground and burrowed deeper into my bed, trying to hide from snow and papers and readings and internship applications.

Like most students in the age of COVID, I'm currently sprinting through an accelerated semester that my school hopes will curb infection rates by virtue of less time spent together and therefore breathing in the same space. I understand the theory of it all: we tack an extra fifteen minutes onto the end of every class and, piece by piece, we can eliminate an extra few weeks of classes. But, we don't get that buffer room from those three weeks. There aren't two hours tacked to the end of every day in between to make up for the ones we're missing, ultimately giving us more time in class and less time for homework. Staying afloat in normal times was a challenge; doing it now is near impossible.

Professors have been understanding-they don't like this schedule, either. They've shaved off a reading here and a paper there to give us time to breathe. When we're asked how we're doing-which happens every class period now-it's not as a polite formality. It's a check-in; accountability. We answer accordingly-no more "good" or "okay." Now, we share that we've barely slept and are teching a show and have one hundred pages to read by Friday. That's one product of the pandemic that I wasn't expecting-softness. We care for one another now in the way that a group of people experiencing a prolonged life-altering event do, with kindness and patience and empathy. With honesty.

Last weekend, the show I've been working on since the beginning of the semester finally happened. It was a tough management job-adapting to COVID protocols; reacclimatizing myself to both school and the theatre; taking the lead as stage manager rather than an assistant. As happens with most shows, I found myself in the middle of it with the distinct impression that I was in over my head and slowly sinking to the bottom.

My best friend reminds me that the only way out is through, so that's what I do.

At the end of our final performance, I only felt relief. Finally, I thought, I can have that time back. I'll get my reading done and write my papers and get more applications in. I can reclaim my life back from the clutches of this play. I was right, to an extent. I do have more free time now, which I promptly filled with duties for other clubs and meetings and conferences. I don't have to haul myself to the theatre five nights a week for rehearsals. I don't need to remember to send out rehearsal reports and daily calls and meeting agendas.

After the immediate relief, though, there was the unmistakable feeling of a cloud rolling over my head. We're all familiar with the come-down from a show-when it's a show you loved, it's even worse. You mourn the sets and the costumes and the pre-show ritual you've developed with your friends. I wasn't expecting the come-down from this show to be so hard; this one felt more like a job than an activity. Is it the sense of purpose I miss? Being so busy that I don't have time for my own thoughts? Maybe it's just the seventy-degrees-and-sunny weather that we enjoyed throughout most of rehearsal that I'm yearning for.

I've been burnt out before (and I'm sure I'll be burnt out again) but this time feels different. This time is sluggish, self-aware, and brutal. This time is stealing a nap wherever I can find one. This time is wearing the same outfit two days in a row. This time is writing a too-long blog post to work through my own thoughts. (Welcome!)

I would love to wrap this up with ten helpful tips to combat burnout or my six favorite distractions from stress or a poignant reminder of our collective struggle to stay on top of this pressure-cooker world that we live in, but alas. I'll let you know if I ever figure those things out. Until then, I'm going to burrow into my sweater, sip my chai, write through it, and try to not go too hard on myself-or the snow.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Sydney Emerson