Winter Break Wrap-Up: The Best and Worst of Breaking the Bubble

If you had to guess, how many times in the past two weeks did someone ask you how your winter break was? Now, take a second guess: how many of those people do you think valued your response enough to fully retain it? Of that number, how many do you think cared enough to methodically compare your answer with that of others’, and subsequently synthesize all of these responses for the purpose of presenting this information in an easily-digested list format? Unless someone else is doing the exact same thing in secrecy for personal, likely nefarious reasons, instead of what I am doing it for (this Phoenix column, with the hope that it will bring some minimal amount of entertainment), then the answer to that last question is one, and it is I.

Best things about going home

1. Guilt-free laziness. Rotting, vegetating, whatever you want to call the blissful relaxation that requires only the couch, a laptop and Instant Netflix that is rapidly becoming America’s pastime, is a treasured privilege for us diligent Swatties. Certainly this is familiar to us as a tool for procrastination (who hasn’t told himself or herself “just one more episode of Breaking Bad, and THEN I’ll write that lab report?”). The importance of doing this during break is that we can do it with a free conscience. The lack of work looming in the background, waiting to devour you whole when you resurface from finishing a complete season of your TV show du jour brings joy to the hearts and peace to the minds of many Swatties in need of well-deserved unwinding.

2. Gaining a fresh perspective. Because Swarthmore is remarkably sympathetic toward students’ craving for active and engaging weekend social lives, it is easy to forget that our friends attending other fine institutions are less fortunate in the realm of recreation. At such places, an RA is a force of evil. Students must take precautions to dodge this stern authority. While our RAs are friendly facilitators of fun, others’ are, as one character put it in the Hollywood masterpiece Freaky Friday, “fun suckers,” those who menace their residents pining for a taste of freedom and inhibition. By engaging with acquaintances at other schools and hearing their complaints about unfriendly RAs who itch to put their residents on probation at first sight of a beer can, we gain profound perspective on the matter, and realize how lucky we are here at Swat, thanks to our patient, responsible, friendly RAs.

3. Feeling well-cared for, physically, mentally and spiritually. Coming home offers significant comforts for the weary college student: not having to strategically ration your meals over the course of the week, establishing sleep habits like a legitimately diurnal creature and interacting with adults other than professors. When asked, some Swatties swore by the soul-soothing magic of having parents cook them a meal or do a load of their laundry.

4. Reuniting with pets. For those without pets, my apologies for the ever-enlarging holes slowly expanding throughout your subconscious. Readers, that’s a joke, but the comfort pets bring you is no laughing matter. The peaceful coexistence of species within a domicile is a welcome sign of life, in contrast to the somewhat utilitarian purposes of dormitory inhabitation.

5. When polled, an anonymous California freshman simply replied: “the drugs.”

…It’s a life of simple pleasures.

Worst things about going home

1. Parents can’t help themselves; they’re brimming with suggestions and critiques. As soon as you get back, you’re barraged with interrogatives ranging from the practical: “Did you meet with enough professors last semester?” and “Why don’t you spend less money?” to the personal:  “Did you gain any weight?” and “Do you drink?” to the absurd:  “Why don’t you try learning a fourth language?” and “Why do you want me to buy ice cream sandwiches?” (Maybe I’m the only one who was asked that last one.) Parents, you’re wonderful people and we’re happy to see you, but can’t we just fulfill our function as fiscal parasites without being subjected to an ongoing interrogation nightmare?

2. Ignorance of what Swarthmore is. Saying it, then repeating it, then spelling it out to the unfamiliar ear is a tiresome chore. As soon as the inevitable “never heard of it!” spills from the lips of one’s conversation partner, one has to choose among several options, including but not limited to: mumbling “it’s a small liberal arts college outside of Philadelphia;” becoming very pretentious very quickly by tossing out the “14% acceptance rate” statistic; or just remaining silent, leaving the other with the impression that you attend a community college whose name is plagued with an excess of consonants.

3. Services are less convenient. For most of us, the gym, the post office and the library are all a ten minute drive or more. I feel like a counterproductive idiot when I drive to a gym, and the convenience of having one so nearby at school shouldn’t be taken for granted.

4. Becoming restless. Many of us experienced the highs of winter break for a few weeks before the inevitable crash, which manifested itself in the form of friends leaving town a week or two before we did, feeling stifled by spending so much time at home and the post-holiday activity lull. Swarthmore peers reported general increasing boredom as one of the worst parts of break. Our minds, craving the excessive intellectual stimulation we’re subjected to during the academic semester, start revolting at early signs of disuse…

5. “Seeing all the jackasses from my high school.” – an anonymous, glowering freshman. I suppose we can’t ALL be endless perpetuators of sweetness and light…

It is worth noting that many students passed a significantly more productive four weeks than I. Some returned to jobs they held before entering college. Some set (and achieved) noble book-a-week goals, or participated in externships. Others returned to campus early for intensive sports schedules, and still others spent arduous hours training in Aruba for upcoming swim conferences. I hope winter break was rewarding in many ways for everyone. Happy Spring Semester!

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