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For the fall break we never had

| Monday, October 26, 2020

I would make the argument that the majority of us as students were concerned about the absence of a fall break in this school year. Fall break provides us with the time to catch up on the readings we are weeks behind on and recharge our social, physical, and academic batteries through relaxation. We are blessed to dine on home cooked meals that retain heat and possess seasoning, taking a break from the dining hall’s stealth fries and brown sauce. Though we were initially disappointed in not having this time to step back from our responsibilities, most of us were simply excited in the beginning of the semester to return to school, be with our friends and sit in a classroom with pants on instead of Zoom University. Simply happy to be back, I thought less of the lack of a fall break and more about tackling this wacky semester. I should’ve prepared myself better. 

It feels like I haven’t had adequate sleep since Jimmy Carter was in office, and I have multiple assignments due in seven classes when I’m only enrolled in five. My diet consists solely of noodles and red sauce with a side of bagged apple slices from North Dining Hall, and I have had approximately 3.5 ounces of water since we started this shindig we call a semester. 

Besides the academic difficulties, we continue to live in the middle of a pandemic, where citizens are losing their lives to this horrible disease. We continue to recognize and fight the injustices against members of our community. We are still growing into adulthood, learning about ourselves, healing from trauma and walking along the intimidating paths of our success stories. We do all of this while still maintaining good grades, social lives and healthy lifestyles with healthy relationships. 

Sometimes we forget we don’t have all the answers and solutions to all of the questions being asked. We are currently the present and the future of this country and community, and we are expected to advocate for justice for everyone currently in our community and those who will belong to our community in the future, while simultaneously focusing on our personal goals to achieve our own definitions of success and happiness. We are supposed to lead the revolution while excelling in courses and obtaining career experience. As we feel these expectations weighing on us, we begin to make these expectations our own, further burdening ourselves with tasks we never asked for, but we must accomplish. 

I think what we forget, however, is that we are human. Considering the quality of our lives are all we truly own, we can’t burn ourselves out through tireless work for the clout of walking through the presumed one-way street to a successful life. We spend these four years in college slaving away at our academics and extracurriculars only used to sculpt our resume and punish ourselves when we don’t do what we qualify as “enough.” Sure, saying you survived 14 weeks of college classes, clubs, exams, projects and papers without any breaks might sound like a tantalizing story, but does it really mean anything if you barely survived and never actually lived through it? Does it mean anything if you come out on the other side a shell of a person so consumed with accomplishing your academic and career goals the right way as opposed to the most healthy way? 

Though the obligations of living and growing in this social and political climate as college students can feel deprecating and taxing, there isn’t much we can do about our circumstances. We’ve chosen to walk this path in life through college, and as difficult as it feels, we can only change our outlook on it.

I can yell up and down north quad that we should have been granted a fall break because I know several of us are hitting some dark patches without the time for recuperation, especially given the circumstances. But like I mentioned before, we can’t change the circumstances. We can, however, remind ourselves of the concepts that we can challenge ourselves to appreciate more. We are here and we are alive, even if we don’t necessarily feel like it all the time. We are functioning, breathing and working, and that is more than enough. While possessing the basic necessities of human life may seem like the bare minimum, and we as Notre Dame students pride ourselves on working at levels above average, we must remember there are plenty of people around us that are unable to sustain these qualities. We might not be having the greatest time, but we are having a time—we are still living in the space on earth provided for us. We are still hopeful and goal driven, and with the trying times before us, hopes, dreams and goals may be one of the few things stimulating us. 

Sydni Brooks is junior at Notre Dame majoring in English with a supplemental major in pre-health and a minor in Africana Studies. Originally from Cincinnati, Ohio, she has made Flaherty Hall her campus home. She aspires to be a gynecologist to serve women from all backgrounds in the medical field. Sydni can be reached at [email protected] or @sydnimaree22 on Twitter.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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