Oberlin Blogs

Tunnel Vision

November 23, 2008

Alice Ollstein ’10

At this time of year it's easy to get trapped into what I call the tunnel vision mentality. Winter break gleams as the light at the end, and you crawl towards it, blind to what's going on around you, wishing the days would go by more quickly. Sometimes this single-minded, survival-bent frame of thinking can keep meltdowns at bay, but they also make college a lot less fun. Here are a few things I tell myself to avoid tunnel vision and weather the winter blues. They aren't foolproof, and I often end up breaking my own rules, but I feel they're a step in the right direction. Welcome to my self-pep talks:

1. Instead of thinking, "Damn it, I have to write a paper," I try to think: "Wow, I get to write a paper on a topic I chose, for a class I chose to be in, in a school I chose to go to. Remember how privileged your problems are!" Every time I start whining I remember the girls I met on my trip to Nicaragua last Winter Term who will never get an education past eighth grade. Studying can be exhausting, but I'm pretty freakin' lucky, when all is said and done.

2. I've stopped wearing my iPod while walking or biking somewhere on campus. Instead, I listen to frozen leaves crunching on the ground, entertaining snippets of conversation and other sounds from the world around me. My daily treks to Old B co-op and back have become much more enjoyable.

3. As a Californian, the cold depresses me. I long for warmer climes and gripe constantly about my frigid fingers and toes. I'm moving into my third Ohio winter now, but I always forget just how cold it can get. I need to remind myself to throw fashion out the window and pile on as many sweaters as possible. Frostbite isn't sexy. Also, snow may be cold, but it's also beautiful.

4. The best survival technique I've found--better than chocolate, better than bad movies--is surrounding myself with inspiring, positive people. Oberlin's wildlife may be hibernating for the winter, but my friends are winning fellowships, writing front page articles and creating beautiful music left and right.

5. It may be tempting to lock yourself in your room until all your work is done, but it's important to go out and interact with other human beings. Though this weekend has been homework hell, I'm happy I got to see my friend's electronic music concert and several of my friends in the opera "Cendrillon." It's easy for stressed Obies to grumble about Oberlin, but where else can you walk one block and pay only five bucks to see a professional quality opera?

To conclude, academic work can feel like it's taking over your life, but it's important to make sure you're happy outside the classroom as well. Even though I can't wait to study abroad next semester, I can already tell how much I'll miss this ol' place.

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