Spring is my favorite season. Life returns from the death that winter brings. The days are always getting longer, each extra minute of sunlight a gift to be thankful for.
In Washington, DC, the famous cherry blossoms begin to bloom all over the tree branches. The birds start singing again in the morning. The air is nice and temperate, not sapping away your spirits in the way that freezing winter and scorching summer do. It feels liberating when you can finally walk outside without a coat. The call to go outside in the city after months of cabin fever is natural.
Unfortunately, during this time of year, most college students have to stay locked inside. With the exam season weeks away and those research papers that probably should have been started weeks ago piling up, lots of students have to forgo enjoying springtime in order to buckle down in some study lounge or the library stacks for hours on end each day.
Inevitably, this period is always stressful. In addition to worrying about finishing out in class, students are operating on just a handful of hours of sleep (if they're lucky to even get any). To make matters worse, lots of us have to juggle school with jobs and their unpredictable hours.
Every spare moment seems to be interrupted by the impending dread of the paper you should be writing instead of relaxing. You can feel the cortisol pumping through your body, making your limbs feel as though they are dead weight one minute and making your heart race the next. To add just a little extra torture, you know that you can't go enjoy the beautiful day outside. You feel like Tantalus from Greek mythology as you sit by the window, with the wonder of spring blooming outside while you stew in your malaise.
I have been wrestling with this lately, but I've been able to find a way to maintain my center. How? Just get off of campus for an uninterrupted hour at least once a week and walk aimlessly. Sometimes I'll find myself somewhere along the banks of the Potomac River with the white mass of the Kennedy Center rising out of the water downstream, or I'll end up in the canyon-like crevice of the C&O Canal in Georgetown.
Other times I'll take a stroll to the monuments along the National Mall and the Tidal Basin (assuming I don't get trampled by the selfie-seeking crowds in search of the cherry blossoms) or by the rusting metal hulk of RFK Stadium where it overlooks the Anacostia River.
Getting off campus helps me shake off the pressures that weigh me down at school. While not without their uses, structures can become prisons at times; it's nice to be liberated from them for even an hour. Living in the present and just going with the flow for even a little bit feels natural, not like the manufactured self we feel forced to create at school sometimes under the pressure to succeed. In these moments, springtime no longer becomes the life-sapping time of year I came to dread as a student; it becomes life-giving, as it is meant to be.
Plus there is a whole city to explore and the weather finally doesn't suck.