If you have read my column in the past, you know the last two weeks of school at Grinnell are weird. People write a lot of essays and study for many hours, but also seem to socialize and relax in a more intense and purposeful manner. I have a theory of why this more frenzied socializing occurs, not only because of the higher stress felt due to the increased workload and subsequent smaller pockets of time you have to socialize. It is also due in large part to the fact these last two weeks are the last moments your social group will exist exactly how it is. Summer changes things, and a new year means new living arrangements, new classes and for many, a slightly different friend group. Some Grinnellians won’t be coming back to campus in the fall at all. The chanting of a senior class year on a weekend seems to become more and more common as seniors realize along with the celebration that these are the last essays at Grinnell they are turning in, these are also the last days they will have with their friends on campus, as Grinnellians. So what to make of all this; how does one handle this increased pressure to both lay out in the sun with the people you have spent this whole year with before summer and a new year inevitably shifts things, and also hit up Burling like never before to knock out that research paper? I do not have any easy solution to this dilemma, but I do have some suggestions based off observation.
One phenomenon I have observed, as everyone on this campus has, is the reintroduction of beautiful warm weather. Is there not a more perfect capsulation of this dilemma of friendship versus schoolwork than all your friends sprawled out on blankets chatting aimlessly about life, while Burling looms in the background? The very act of hanging out with your crew is made so much easier when you guys have not only a dining hall table, or dorm room to gather in. As the weather gets warmer, the whole campus becomes your oyster. I truly believe that the amount of social activity on this campus doubles when the sun is out and it is warm enough to hang out outside. Back to the dilemma these deliciously balmy May days create. Why not both do homework and sun tan with your friends outside? This seems like an obvious answer. But at least personally, I have found that the increase in focus and effort necessary to complete lots of the work in these last two weeks of school, not to mention the increased need for a computer for writing essays, makes it hard to work on Cleveland Beach or Mac Field. Another barrier to being productive outside is the very fact that you are sitting with your friends and will most likely end up socializing. Perhaps then, the unfortunate but necessary solution for all this sun and all this work better completed inside is to just do this work inside.
When reality hits and you do end up giving in and doing this homework inside, you may give in to a phenomenon I have noticed occurring during these last two weeks: the transformation of status as social college student into casual hermit. Let’s imagine a scenario where a Grinnell student has lots of essays they don’t really want to write. This work becomes overwhelming and they don’t really know where the essays are going so they take liberal social media breaks. This leads to said individuals forcing themselves to stay in Burling until close as punishment for that hour and a half Facebook coma. Hell Week and Finals Week can wear down one’s willpower—the willpower both to stop procrastinating on Burling fourth and also to get yourself to shower and go to dinner with your friends.
But wait, these last two weeks, as I’ve said, are intense in that they are the last time your friend group will exist exactly how it is. Even if all of you all remain just as close next year, with no one graduated or abroad, it will simply be a new year and you won’t have the same inside jokes or crushes. It is extremely tempting for many, including myself, to use the increased workload and stress as an excuse to not see friends as much during the week. Yet the end of Spring Semester 2013 here at Grinnell College, the unique vibe the campus has, will never exist again. Not to be too dramatic, but remember to hang out with those people you appreciate right now, do the things you love to do here at Grinnell. Instead of scrolling Facebook alone when your brain just can’t find another JSTOR article, acknowledge that you are human and need study breaks. Take these purposefully and physically move locations from where you study to somewhere else. Get out on that loggia with music blasting, or stroll through the golf course (which is so beautiful right now) with a friend.