Commentary

This Isn’t Healthy

For the past two weeks, I’ve been running on green tea, frozen yogurt, guava-flavored cyanide (i.e. Rockstar Juice), Pringles, cold showers and an average of four hours of shuteye for every twenty of consciousness. It’s that time of year when fingers get jittery with caffeine withdrawal and eyes grow watery and red from lack of sleep. Juggling APs, research papers, tests, and board applications gets tiring, but in the Andover circus, sleep is the most exotic and rare of acts. This exhaustion is not healthy. My neck aches from spending five hours hunched over a tiny testing desk, and by the time the pain numbs down, I find myself staring at those endless bubbles once again for another AP. I’ve grown desensitized to sights and sounds, as if my mind has developed tunnel thoughts of linear, laser-like focus. The sound of keyboards clattering and the glare of the computer screen mix with the echo of the test administrator’s voice and the smell of heated rubber erasers furiously devouring letters and punctuation. I want, if only for one moment, to press the “pause” button and take a step away, and maybe gain some insight into why this is all worthwhile. In the words of Lenny Kravitz, “Where are we running?” I can’t figure it out. If I spend too long (which nowadays means more than 60 seconds) trying to determine the meaning of this sleepless rat race, I fall behind. So I don’t stop. I keep ingesting caffeine while safety-pinning my eyelids back until my focus gathers back onto the pages of words or equations. I spend so much time focusing on the blanks I need to fill in on this or that test that I do not have a minute to spare to fill in the blanks in my life that ask for social interaction, a good night’s rest, a full meal or a bit of retrospect. You know what the experts say: we need sleep. We need a breather. This sentiment was spread around the campus during Wellness Week in the fall, and I for one made promises to my body and mind that I no longer keep: I’ll take care of you. Now is a time another Wellness Week would come in handy. In November, I wrote about how we can pursue happiness without sacrificing our intellectual workload. I stand by my statement that happiness can exist under any circumstances, but I’m afraid that health cannot. And right when we could all use another Wellness Week, a reminder to breathe, we find ourselves with Saturday classes and extra coursework. The prospect of sleep fades further into a dream, and the reality of watching another sunrise sets in. This past Saturday, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I slept for fifteen hours. Fifteen! That’s not healthy either, for my body or my attendance record. But when I awoke from my comatose state, I felt (and this is no hyperbole) a thousand time’s better than I had the night before. I felt capable of getting something done without reaching for another sickeningly sweet energy drink or two more Tylenol to silence the drumsticks banging against the walls of my mind. The air was clean and clear with possibility. Cue the soundtrack music: I felt alive for the first time in two weeks. Gravity didn’t seem to be dragging me down as I climbed out of bed for a hot shower. I know that right now, this plea for rest may not seem like a realistic goal. It’s more of a Holy Grail, the stuff of legend. But Andover, try and get some sleep. It really is the only way things will start to make sense again. Jenn Schaffer is a two-year Lower. jschaffer@andover.edu