I’m several weeks into my first spring semester at University of Michigan, and I still can’t believe it’s actually happening. My mind can’t juxtapose the warm weather and greenery with the formerly bitter atmosphere surrounding the Diag. Every time I exhibit winter-like behavior, like subconsciously reaching for a sweater or waking up with anxieties about final assignments, it becomes increasingly clear that the aftermath of semesters past has me shell-shocked. After enduring what seemed like the longest semester of everyone’s life this past winter, I find my mind significantly lagging. It’s as if I’m waiting to catch up — as if time is moving forward without me while I passively go through the motions. And no matter how far back in history last semester becomes, I still can’t rid my mind of its debris.
I had certain expectations going into this semester. As a transfer student, I was excited to relish in my first and only remaining opportunity to experience spring in Ann Arbor. I was told that campus is quieter, more peaceful. And aside from campus, I looked forward to exploring the greater Ann Arbor community, which promises an eventful season for those who choose stick around. For me personally, the beautiful natural elements of this city hold an important responsibility. Spring is when everything comes to life, at the same time I’m supposed to be resurrecting my own spirit. Going in, I felt that I earned the trees, that I deserve the flowers and that the wonders of the Arb are anticipating my arrival the same way I did for the sun’s.
Yes, campus is peaceful. And yes, Ann Arbor is a sanctuary for the free-spirited. But in these two weeks, I learned quickly that a fresh season doesn’t necessarily coincide with a fresh and prepared mind. My expectations were quickly shot down, and I’m beginning to think that the pressures of a “fresh start” could be the reason spring has been so difficult.
It’s hard to start fresh after weeks of adhering to the same routine over and over again. While this holds true for every semester, the one-week pseudo-break between winter and spring doesn’t exactly warrant enough time for a clean mental transition. Realistically, it’s just a week of old habits, like feeling your heart sink at 11:59 p.m. when assignments are normally due and habitually refreshing Canvas for no reason. The stress of the school year carries over, which may be the reason why I’m struggling to come to terms with the present. Walking to class feels stale, almost robotic. Everything feels like an extension of last semester. In fact, I’m writing this from the same and only spot I was able to get work done in the winter. And believe me, it’s not that I want to be in this same spot. I would much rather be under a tree, tackling my vitamin D deficiency. But I feel like a caged flower, and while the hands of spring have unlocked the cage door, I don’t have the means to escape. So I remain put. My mind and body are victims to the abstraction of time, nestled between the routine of weeks prior and the anticipation of a distant summer. It also doesn’t help that the windows in Mason Hall tease me with a visual of the latter.
I’m sure other people can relate to the way I’m feeling. I don’t know what the consensus is on campus, but most people I’ve spoken to can agree that spring semester is at least a different experience than its colder counterparts. And I’m not just talking about the weather. It’s not that the classes are longer, or that the rooms are stuffier. It’s not that professors lecture just a little bit slower. It’s something about the glassy-eyed look on everyone’s face that really brings me down. But at the same time, I find comfort when I look across the classroom and notice a community of spring-semester zombies that are experiencing the same phenomenon.
Maybe we are living in a simulation and spring semester brings out the Cartesian skepticism in all of us. Just because I think I’m in a classroom doesn’t mean it actually exists, right? My senses could very well be deceiving me into thinking that winter ended. Maybe, upon closer reflection, spring semester is just winter in disguise. Maybe there’s an evil genius deceiving us all, wanting us to believe in the trees, sunlight and most importantly in the Diag dogs. As I continue to reflect on this term, I’d like to extend my optimism to anyone else in this funk. I’m still hopeful that spring will fulfill our expectations eventually. We’ll find ways to work effectively — whether that involves getting some sunlight or soaking in our indoor habits. Regardless, we’ll readjust. And we’ll have to do it all over again when fall comes around.