Opinion—Battling the “Back to School Blues”

Andie Balenger, Opinion Editor

As I enter my final year of undergraduate studies at Northern Michigan University, it has become eerily apparent how bittersweet the month of August has always been for me. In part, I associate the final month of the summer season with relaxation — preferably sprawled out under the sun like a lizard trying to raise its body temperature in order to survive. However, the intake of vitamin D can never truly be appreciated thanks to the little voice in my head that insists on reminding me that the new school year is right around the corner. While I try my best to ignore the “Debbie Downer” of my inner psyche, attempting to mask its reminders of first-day jitters and unpreparedness with leisure activities, it currently boasts an undefeated record of bumming me out by the end of the month.   

The “Back to School Blues” begin their reign of terror at the first sighting of yellow, orange and brown jutting out from within the lush green leaves. For most, Yoopers and tourists alike, the vibrant fall colors act as a definitive feature of the Upper Peninsula. While I do enjoy the colors at their peak, the initial sighting of a dying leaf never fails to fill me with dread. A typical Andie response to a stray leaf sighting is, “Seriously? Summer cannot be over yet,” followed by the mental image of me drowning in assigned readings, essays and study sheets.

While the cyclical pattern of the dying leaves is relatively the same every year, it just so happened that I spotted the first discolored leaf in mid-July this year. I vividly recall a single tear falling from my eye.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to learn and am incredibly thankful to be attending college. In fact, when I began my freshman year at NMU I did my best to absorb as much knowledge as physically possible. From filling my schedule with classes to studying a foreign language, not to mention all of the extracurricular activities, I was eager to see what post-secondary education had to offer me.

If truth be told, I am probably that student you hated in school. Picture Hermione Granger of the Harry Potter series: hand flying up at every question a professor asks, diving into a textbook before readings have even been assigned and scheduling study sessions with classmates. While acting as a nightmare for many of my peers, my enthusiasm for learning and perfectionist standards often leave me physically and emotionally drained as well. 

Once the “Back to School Blues” have retired me to daily naps, a popular side effect of their energy-draining capabilities, I am unfortunately past the point of rescue. These naps, which vary in length from 30 minutes to two hours, often leave me more exhausted than I was before my head even hit the pillow. Yet, every day, without fail, you will catch me tossing my textbooks aside after hours of note-taking and succumbing to the gravitational pull my bed seems to have over me.

That single orange leaf in July, and its co-conspirators from the years prior, transport me to my mid-semester energy levels — all before the calendar reads “August 31.” 

Considering this is my senior year of college, however, I intend to fight back against the “Back to School Blues.” Rather than preemptively stressing myself out over my courses this semester, I plan to prioritize activities and extracurriculars that truly allow me to thrive as both a student and a human being on campus. Whether taking early morning walks, scheduling dinner dates with friends or simply enjoying the open environment that NMU provides, I plan to soak it in as if it were the last bit of summer sun.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is a staff column, written by an employee of the North Wind. As such, it expresses the personal opinions of the individual writer, and does not necessarily reflect the position of the North Wind Editorial Board.