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Friday, Jun 21, 2024

Notes from the Desk: The little things in life that bring me joy

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I drag myself out of bed at 8 a.m. My eyes do not gracefully flutter open. Instead, I force them to lift what seems like pounds, until the pink decor that adorns my walls turns from sporadic blurs of color into the shapes of a carefully curated collection of photos, art and posters. Rolling over, I fumble around the top shelf of the cart that sits next to my bed in search of my phone, struggling to locate the source of the horrible noise that wakes me up each and every morning. There's a sense of relief when my hand finally hits the pink plastic of its case. Next, I violently throw my pink covers off of me. This is how my day begins. 

At roughly 9 a.m, I arrive in Proctor, and begin to caffeinate. My eyelids continue to betray me. More than once I have considered laying down in a booth, but knowing the caffeine will eventually kick in, I fight the urge. I begin the futile task of finishing readings for the three classes that I have back to back on these days.

Two hours and four cups of Earl Grey tea later, I trade in my carabiner for a to-go container and make a “little kid” lunch — a ham and cheese sandwich, an apple, cucumber slices and whatever baked treat Proctor has to offer. A victim of what I hope is one day known at Middlebury as “the great lunch conundrum of 2023,” I head off to my first of three classes that meet between 11:15 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. with only 15 minutes between each. 

Needless to say, by the end of the day, I am exhausted. 

Since the beginning of the semester, my Tuesday and Thursday routine has been the bane of my existence and, at times, has felt largely unsustainable. Don’t get me wrong, I am a true Middlebury nerd; I love each class, and I need all three for my two majors, Economics and Art History, so this is a self-inflicted problem. But, I’ve had more than one moment where I’ve thought to myself, “what were you thinking?”

There’s a resounding sentiment among students that this spring semester has felt particularly grueling so far. From what I’ve heard from friends, classmates and acquaintances, the stress I’ve internalized is being felt throughout the institution as a whole. 

For weeks, I’ve been wondering how I am going to make the Tuesday-Thursday routine work. (Eventually, I will build a tolerance to the caffeine that is keeping me going.)

So I sought out solutions to make these days feel more manageable. This semester, I’ve begun a more positive habit that’s made my Tuesdays and Thursdays significantly more enjoyable: I've been intentionally acknowledging all of the little things I am grateful for, especially during my busiest days. 

Pink is my favorite color; so when I jolt awake from the sound of my alarm and am forced to accept that it is indeed time for me to leave my cozy bed, I find myself admiring the warmth that radiates from my walls. Being surrounded by a hue I associate with fun, happiness and laughter makes waking up more pleasant and welcoming.   

And those four cups of Earl Grey? Although I stick to this flavor, I don’t make each cup the same. I find joy in getting to choose a different concoction each time I leave my seat for another cup. Sometimes I opt for just honey or just cream, and sometimes I add both. One of my favorite additions to a piping hot cup of tea is a lemon wedge, which I just recently learned exists in the same fridge that holds the cream. This small discovery made my day. 

My little kid lunch is definitely less than ideal, but because of it, I’ve noticed the kindness that exists on our campus. Figuring out the best way to pack it without a lunch box took some experimentation. One morning, rushing around Proctor and running late, I asked if there was any Saran wrap in the dining hall available to students. The dining staff was kind enough to spare some. 

I have professors who have been equally understanding of the pinch some students like myself are in. Well before this semester, the Art History Department would offer students snacks at the beginning of class. However, aware that this might not just be a treat and is in fact a necessity for students who are rushing for a quick lunch, or unable to make it to the dining hall, they’ve become even more intentional about making this option available. The treats they bring are nearly gone by the end of class. 

These are just some of the little things that bring me joy, even in the thick of my most stressful days. I would encourage anybody feeling stressed, anxious or worried to take the time to slow down and notice the little things that brighten your day. I think you’ll find that they add up to a whole lot of happiness you didn’t even realize was there.