At about 6 am Friday morning one of my best friends here in Germany, G., had an epileptic attack. We watched an ambulance pull her away from us with confused, blurring eyes. We passed the next couple days in her hotel room, as she rightfully cried and sometimes laughed through what was a confusing and numbing weekend.
Rewind. Here’s the quick overview of my erasmus experience for you. Much like Amherst, we have a work-so-you-can-party attitude. Side effects include sleeplessness, putting off your laundry, changing your diet to a strict (but potent) combination of chocolate and wine, and general laughter (often mixed with a dazed form of exhaustion). If this sounds familiar, it should. I think the “erasmus” (aka abroad) experience is like a slightly exaggerated version of the Amherst experience. It’s wonderful, but we spend so much time worrying that we won’t be able to cram everything into four years that we wind up with our heads ten feet up our own butts wondering why we feel dizzy and helpless.
G.’s body used her epilepsy to say, “whoa there, slow down.” But the rest of us didn’t take the cue. We had to remind E. and I. that it was still their birthday even though G. was in the hospital and M. broke up with E. Not to mention R. was sad about that girl C. who broke his heart. And I was mad at A. for practically harassing me at Vertigo; then L. and A. (different A) broke up too, which was just enough to make V. question her relationship with P., while E.’s guests tried to cook B.’s roommate’s hamster so they could eat it. (Don’t worry. I’m confused, too). When are we going to learn our lesson, people? Are there crazy pills in the fizzy water?
And the, as I called it last week, almost choking Amherst command: “take care of yourself damnit!” isn’t helping either. Really, while I agree with the sentiment (that’s what this post is about, after all), it has no tangible effect at Amherst. We’re still boiling in the pressure cooker. The guilt list of things I’ll never accomplish is just as long, only I have to add “take care of yourself” at the bottom (as if I had time for that too): 1. Answer that pile of well-meant facebook messages and emails; 2. hang out with all those people I said I’d see tonight; 3. really get all my reading done (really); 4. take the yoga class I love; 5. eat a sit-down (well balanced) meal; 6. wash and fold my laundry; 7. call mom before she disowns me; 7. Oh, make sure you take an hour to meditate, too, dearest! …the list goes on…
If you really want us to take care of ourselves grant us a freaking mountain day, or assess the insane amounts of reading assigned to us. Don’t just give us another useless command which only exacerbates my feelings of incompetence. The fact that we’re all stressed out is a sign of a structural problem in our college lives. Why is my list always so impossible? When will I finally make it to that sushi restaurant?
So when I think of G., practically chained to her hospital bed (we begged her to stay as long as the doctors prescribed), why can’t I apply the same to myself? “I’m sorry, I can’t go out tonight. Not because I have too much work, not because I’m skyping someone, but because I want to watch a movie. And not an intellectual one either. One in English. Probably a mindless rom-com.” There. Was that so hard? (Yes). But really, let’s make a pact. Some day, we’re gonna sit down and put some tea on the kettle and just watch “how I met your mother” (I still haven’t seen a single episode). Wouldn’t it be nice?
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