Like everyone, I’ve had to make sacrifices because of the pandemic, and I know I’m lucky in that regard — I certainly haven’t been the most impacted by any of this. But writing a thesis in a pandemic has taken its toll, and not just on the amount of sleep I get at night. Without structure, motivation or a sense of purpose, I fell into patterns that I don’t know if I can recover from in the short time I have left here at Wooster.
In the fall, my advisor told me that I.S. should be my first priority; that it was okay if I missed assignments for another class if it meant I could meet a deadline. I started missing things regularly, especially the nights before advisor meetings, and staying up late just to make sure enough got done on my I.S. so that I wouldn’t be embarrassed by it. I’d spend every minute of every Monday on finishing touches, up until the Microsoft Teams ringtone played, then afterward my brain would shut down. Tuesdays, when I happened not to have many classes or other obligations, became my recovery day, and I spent Wednesdays and Thursdays slowly regaining productivity. Then the weekend came, I was behind on I.S., and it was time to push myself past my limit to make up for it again. Wash, rinse, repeat. In a time when days ran into each other and nothing seemed to matter, this became my routine; I was either pushing myself to exhaustion or being exhausted. It was dysfunctional, but it got results.
That vicious cycle left no room for me to establish my own life outside of I.S., and neither did living under lockdown in a single. I lost touch with friends, even on campus, because I was always either too busy or too burnt out to fully maintain relationships. I never had the energy to participate the way I wanted to in any clubs or activities. And hobbies that I used to enjoy? Forget it. Now, I feel so out of touch that I wonder if some people remember I exist. Isolation and burnout were how I experienced the “new normal” during I.S., and now that it’s done, I worry that I don’t have enough time left to really reestablish those connections. In some cases, I’m not even sure where I would start.
I don’t think any of this has a real solution. Nor do I believe anything or anyone is to blame, except for COVID-19. And I know that to some extent, burnout, loneliness and less-than-ideal habits are par for the course with I.S. But in a normal year, there would at least be more contact with people. There would be moments of relief. There wouldn’t be the sense that I was alone in all of it. Maybe it wouldn’t even feel like there was so much lost time to make up for.