Maybe I am extra cagey because this is my final winter term as a Drexel student – or I am fully projecting my insecurities about the future onto this inanimate winter landscape – but it feels like I am extra sensitive to the inconveniences being thrown at me by this volatile season. I bemoan how 35th street – the one I always take from my house to get to campus – never seems salted, but maybe this was always the case. A few students in my class at Lincoln Center cite slipping upwards of five times on the way there, and I’m proud to say that makes me feel a little less crazy.
One difficulty I encounter with classes in the winter is the temperature inside the classrooms, which for some reason seems consistently impossible to augment. Heading to class in twenty degree weather, I find it crucial to pack on a few layers. But then with almost every class I go to, the temperature is always turned way up, so I quickly go from a feeling of relief from being out in the cold into a very sticky, sweaty panic.
As daunting and dread-inducing as the winter walks can be, I actually find it more distressing when class is put online due to inclement weather. A sentiment I have heard reflected by a lot of my close friends and classmates is that if it’s between an irksome walk and being trapped in their apartment for three hours tuning into an online class, they would actually choose the irksome walk. Most people I know admittedly go on their phones or have other tabs open when there’s a class running for three hours with little to no breaks, and I don’t blame them. Others find themselves distracted by the property or pets in their living space, or end up cooking a meal. I think when the decision is made to put an in-person class online it transports us back to the time of quarantine, which is immediately jarring and suffocating. When I am confronted with the winter weather, I am always grateful for any obligation – whether it be a job or class – to move around and be somewhere other than my apartment, because if it were up to me (against my best interest as it may be), I would not leave all that much. Thus, having to go to class in person ends up being very good for my soul.
Reflecting on all this, I have found that – as backwards as it may sound – the more cold it is, the more rewarding it can feel to leave your house. Even if the extent of my physical activity is trudging my way to the Septa so I can get to the mall and watch a movie, that feels better to me than if I’d stayed inside. I have also found in my recent experience that the same has applied in the gym. My modus operandi is to go to the gym for a few months, and then halt that process entirely for about six months to a year. Lately I am trying to set more practical goals, and I have found that even if I go to the gym a few times a week, the notoriously hard to handle winter term course load feels just a little bit less intimidating in my head. Going to the gym feels good as it is, even if all you do is go on the treadmill for fifteen minutes. To me, that feeling is doubly enhanced by going to the gym in the winter, because it helps you prove to yourself that you’re at least attempting to stay sane. I guess that what I am getting at is that in the winter, when our seasonal depression is doing push ups, it’s extra important to do things that make us feel just a little bit better.
Lately, I have also found the winter term invaluable for making peace with yourself and your feelings, just getting centered overall. The most beneficial method I have found for that is journaling. I am a writer, in case you couldn’t tell, but you don’t have to be one to practice journaling. I have found that when you write down your fears and anxieties on paper – whether it be broad anxieties about the term, specific projects you’re doubting your ability to tackle, or a packed schedule you’re not sure how to navigate – those things inevitably become easier to sort out and handle in a practical sense. You can also use journaling to chronicle your goals for the future, personal victories from the day, or things that give you strength. Everyone I have talked to who has consistently done a gratitude list has said it’s had an overall positive impact on their mental state. A few people I know also use journaling time to write short stories and poems. Any of these things can be cathartic, and take away some of the internal weight we may not have realized we were carrying.
I consume movies and television shows all the time – knowing I have a time slotted out every night or two often makes the workload of the term easier to stomach – but it’s come to my attention that I have somewhat lost my affinity for reading. I spent so much time accumulating used books to read as a means of saving up dopamine, but as soon as the winter began to approach I found myself converted to watching TV. I know that part of this is because I spend so much time reading for class, that it feels like the last thing I’d want to do is read for pleasure. But whenever I’ve chosen reading before bed over watching TV, my sleep has been much more smooth and restful. Over the five years I’ve been a Drexel student, winter term is always something I’ve dreaded. But, if I see it as an opportunity instead of something that will inevitably bring me down, maybe it doesn’t have to be.