A first year and I were complaining about an essay when she asked me if second semester was “always like this,” or if that was just how it was in the first year. Another sophomore jumped in: “No, that’s just February.”
It’s a truth universally acknowledged that February sucks. My birthday is in February, and I still hate it — especially at Kenyon. Why especially at Kenyon? Well, the answer I gave to the first year was “the weather,” but I don’t think that’s the full story.
The weather is part of it. Seasonal Affective Disorder, unfortunately acronymed “SAD,” is taken more and more seriously as scientists agree that the sun is an important source of vitamin D and that sunlight can make people happy. Alaska, a place much more devoid of sunlight than the continental United States, has the highest suicide rate in the country and some of the highest depression rates. When Kenyon’s sky turns ash-gray, the ground turns dirty white,the air drops below zero degrees and Middle Path becomes a Nickelodeon’s Slime Time Live-esque obstacle, those “suicide lights” lining Middle Path earn their nickname.
But the weather is bad here from November through April. So, why February? To answer that, here’s a “list-icle”:
1. “The Stretch”: February is the longest unbroken stretch during which we have to deal with the gray. November and December have some nice days, as well as Thanksgiving and Winter Break, and from Spring Break on, things start to clear up. Mid-January through the end of February is bad weather, all the time.
2. Midterms: With all the bad weather and sickness, people typically haven’t been keeping up with their work. I can’t say how many times this semester I’ve excused skipping a club meeting, assignment, or class with “it’s February,” but it’s not a number I’d show my parents. It’s a stressful, unprepared time.
3. Rush: There are events like Philander’s Ball and Horn shows, but the lack of frequent campus-wide parties thrown by Greek organizations — banned due to Rush — does change things. Instead, we have lots of smaller parties in Tafts, Milks, NCAs and New Apts, and while a lot of people love these, they cause a lot of anxiety for some people who don’t have friends to party-hop with, who don’t know a ton of people in these areas, who get lost, etc., not to mention the insularity that can promote.
4. Romance: (Bear with me on this one.) In bad weather, people tend to want to spend their nights with someone, and a lot of people like a stable situation, something to rely on in cold times. Add to that the pseudo-pressure of Valentine’s Day and finding dates to the few big (and public) dance parties in February, and there’s a definite internal and external push to find someone. But finding someone isn’t as easy as finding someone for most people, and failure to make that happen can exacerbate existing bad feelings.
5. Self-Interest: In February, people aren’t at their best, and many decide to look out for themselves more. This is totally understandable; no matter how altruistic you are, you’re no good if you aren’t doing well enough to be there for someone else. But an almost universal increase in self-interest doesn’t do much good when people need support most.
February is a piling-on of everything stressful at Kenyon. There’s not a ton to be done about it, except to remember that everyone else is going through the same thing. Unfortunately, reaching out when people are at their most defensive might be the best strategy. Otherwise, just remember: February’s the shortest month.
Derek Dashiell ’16 is an English major from Lakewood, Ohio. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.