My Chemical Romance and the Ghost of Fall Break

Bookshop with stacks and stacks of old books on the perimeter of the walls. Original public domain image from Wikimedia Commons

Breaks are typically a breath of fresh air — a welcome detox from the overwhelming nature of academia. Breaks are something to look forward to and help cut the monotony of seemingly endless exams, papers, and demanding extracurriculars. After all, nothing beats a chance to go home and see family and old friends (or to explore campus and discover areas you’ve never visited before). For me, my breaks are often filled with reading and listening to music. As an avid reader of all genres and a die-hard “My Chemical Romance” fan, the combination could not be better. But for the first time, rather than diving into a new world of literature with a back soundtrack of songs circa 2004, I was hitting the books harder than I anticipated doing on a ten-day break.

         Studying during breaks makes sense, especially considering the fact that the break that just occurred happened in the middle of midterms season, a time full of papers, projects, essays, and exams. Even without exams, doing schoolwork during breaks is almost a compulsion. After all, how can you relax while knowing that after the ten days you’ve been allotted are up, you’ll be thrown right back into the stressful academic situation you were so eager to get away from?

         It’s a paradox where what you desire hardly comes to fruition. You spend your difficult days in school anticipating time off, eagerly waiting for the rest and the relaxation that they promise. But when you’re on break, you are anxious about what awaits you afterwards. With this thought process, few moments can be found in which you enjoy the time you’ve been anticipating.

         It’s difficult, as it seems that there is no time to truly enjoy your present. For students, the fear of falling behind in class is ever-present. For professors, giving work (or having an expectation of completing work during breaks) is the only way the classes can stay on track with the syllabus. It leaves the prominent question of what can be done to find some compromise. How do students enjoy and embrace our breaks while also ensuring that we don’t get caught up in worrying about what is to come?

         This is a hard question to answer, as students have classes with diverse workloads and levels of difficulty. Thus, simply putting off studying or schoolwork for the entirety of the break will have varying effects on different people. Furthermore, people experience pressure in school in different ways, and for some, general methods of de-stressing or self-prioritization may not conform with the demands of academically rigorous institutions such as Swarthmore. 

         Although this may sound rather bleak, it is my own opinion that students should try to carve time out during breaks to do things they enjoy. While this time may not be as substantial as the promise a ten-day “break” invokes, I do think there are ways to make the future demands awaiting you after the break a little less imposing: small things like forgoing studying for an afternoon to hang out with friends and family. Spending one extra hour playing your favorite video game. Or in my case, spending evenings reading your favorite book while listening to “Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge” (my favorite MCR album). Setting time aside to do activities you enjoy can help you forgo the pressures of school, if only for a little bit, and enable you to do things that you love when you can.

However, a bigger problem is still at hand. Is reform needed on how colleges handle breaks? How should professors and students alike manage their time during especially long periods without classes? And moreover, should we have breaks that last for multiple days or instead have more individual days off? While the discussion can diverge further than what has currently been brought up, the most important thing to remember is that there should always be time to do things that take your mind off school. Whether it’s sleeping in or singing along to “The Ghost of You”.

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