If I told my eighteen-year-old self that in two years she would be in self-isolation from a deadly virus that caused a global pandemic while living in fear that her autonomy would be ripped from her because of a presidential election, she would think I was lying. Yet, here I am in my last day of isolation from my family recovering from COVID-19 while constantly being updated of a new horrific event by my social media feed. On top of it all, I’m supposed to be finishing a pile of assignments for classes that I keep forgetting I’m enrolled in.
I’m burned out. Big time.
Entering college in the fall of 2018, I never thought I would experience burnout. Perhaps I was a naive young student or had too high expectations for myself that led me to believe that I would be able to avoid the grip of burnout. However, living through a global pandemic, a terrifying presidential election season, a remote semester, and the complete loss of trust of a system that is rooted in white supremacy, I would be joking myself if I still thought I could graduate without a period of burnout.
Initially I had the notion that this semester would be a breeze. No commute. No painful walks across campus with the blistering wind stinging my eyes. No chance of me running into class sweating as I take off my coat after climbing the three flights of stairs in the Arts and Sciences Hall. The thought of doing homework and attending class in the comfort of my own bed was appealing. (Granted, it was appealing once you subtracted the circumstances of why we were switching to remote learning.)
However, there have been many instances, both before and during isolation, where I pondered whether any of it mattered. How was it possible for any of us, including students and professors, to even try to attempt a normal semester when it felt like our world was, and is, falling apart. It just felt pointless to contribute to a discussion board where we all somehow agreed with one another and simply reworded the answers of each other, even if we hadn’t finished the assignment. It felt tiresome to write paper after paper about something I didn’t fully grasp or comprehend just for the sake of not missing a deadline.
At least for me, it is not the matter of disliking what I am learning or the thought of switching majors, but rather it is the act of completing the endless list of assignments asked of me that is causing this feeling of helplessness. One moment I am sitting in my Zoom lecture on a Tuesday morning, and then suddenly it is Sunday evening and I have yet to even look at my planner.
Now has that week been filled with procrastination and an unhealthy amount of time dedicated to watching pointless videos on Youtube? Yes, I am not a perfect student. But is there such a thing as the perfect student? Why must our educational institutions place such a high standard on individuals who were already struggling in a learning environment prior to the global pandemic?
While I understand that no one has the right answer on how to properly teach in a pandemic climate, I think it’s important for universities to understand that many of us no longer feel like students. And the response to that should not be more assignments and projects to give the illusion of a normal college semester.
None of us have the mental capacity to continue at the difficulty and pace that we are at currently. Although I do not have the solution, I do know that there needs to be a compromise.
And to those who are dealing with the same struggles as mine: Your level of productivity does not define your worth as a student and as a human being. Do not feel discouraged if it is difficult to pay attention during class. Do not beat yourself up for not handing in a paper on time. You are not alone in these feelings.