Fall is upon us. It was fairly easy to ignore on Sept. 21 — the first official day of fall-with 70 and 80-degree days stretching before us. Now, though, the specter of autumn is everywhere we look. Leaves are falling, Halloween decorations are going up and attitudes are souring. Stomach sinking, we look forward to prelims, persistent cold and barren trees. This year we have the additional threat of a second COVID-19 wave. We stand helpless as the trees shed around us, reluctant to dive into winter and wishing we had gone to Second Dam when we had the chance.
This distaste for the changing of the seasons is a college mindset. Remember when we were children? The turning of the leaves didn’t bring sadness and longing for more sun. It put a smile on our faces because when we were kids we did seasons and holidays right. I say we need to return to that mentality. This year, let’s return to our childhood and face fall and winter with the giddy excitement of our youth. Start by trying to remember it.
Classrooms decorated with skeletons and tombstones. Twinkling Christmas lights lining the streets. The weeks-long deliberation over the perfect Halloween costume. Burl Ives belting out “Holly Jolly Christmas” over the radio on every other car ride. Running through a pumpkin patch with your baby sister.
I treasure fragmented memories like these to this day. As kids, holidays seemed to last weeks. Fall and Halloween were synonymous and began at the beginning of October. The month was filled with cutout witches, pumpkins and leaf piles. Thanksgiving, albeit less exciting than Christmas or Halloween, was still a happy period in between the two big holidays. No school, lots of food and a chance to see family members we may not see very often. The next day, while still weighed down with turkey, we tuned the radio to the Christmas station.
Each holiday seemed endless and brought with it unique feelings of excitement and anticipation. Each season was wonderful because we DID the seasons. In college, if you haven’t yet noticed, it’s a bit different. We’re constantly stressed. Time rushes past seemingly at warp speed. The seasons blow by and we barely notice. Halloween doesn’t last one week, let alone one month. Halloween is one night spent drunk and sweating in a cow onesie. Quite a divergence from carving pumpkins and leaping into leaf piles.
Thanksgiving and Christmas fall victim to the same fate. We spend Thanksgiving break stunned from a hard semester of Cornell, mentally preparing to take exams in a couple of weeks. We’re bombarded with questions from family members about our studies and career outlook, neither of which we want to discuss during our precious few days off. That’s if we even go home, which some students aren’t even able to do. When we return from Thanksgiving break, finals season ambushes us. All of our free time is spent studying, writing papers or finishing projects. When it’s all over we raise our heads out of our books to find that Christmas Eve is in three days. A sad moment for a college student who had cherished the Christmas season in their childhood.
So why don’t we embrace the seasons and holidays again? We’re all incredibly busy, but shunning the festivities and rituals of our childhood only deepens our misery. Some of us go as far as saying we want to “do seasons again.” Those people pledge to put up decorations, make gingerbread houses or go trick-or-treating for the fun of it. They pledge to do all those things but rarely succeed. And I understand why. In our youth the energy of each holiday was all around us. At Cornell that energy is almost nonexistent. It’s hard to do a season alone, adrift in a sea of cheerless pre-meds.
So most of us go through college without the boundless joy and excitement of doing the seasons and holidays. There’s no reason that has to be the case. This time around, dive into Halloween and Christmas. It will be hard. You’ll have to make a conscious, concerted effort. But the cobwebs on your door in October and the Christmas music blaring from your common room during finals will bring a smile to your face. I promise it will.
Let the seasons and holidays be seasons and holidays again. Don’t lose them in the mire of internship hunts and prelims. Let Thanksgiving be more than a brief reprieve from the toil of Cornell. Let it lift your spirits and serve as a marker within the drudgery. Let’s become kids again in the magic of Christmas, Halloween and every other celebration.
Christian Baran is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Honestly runs alternate Fridays this semester.