Senioritis: "A small and specific hell."*
Ever languished in the doldrums of a year that doesn't seem to end? Ever felt a chapter in your life was so close to ending, but not there yet? Ever mentally checked out from something that hadn't crossed over the finish line? You may have (had) senioritis.
What is senioritis? It's that feeling at the end of high school ("senior year" in the US system) when everything is almost all wrapped up but not quite and the end seems to just drag on. You've said goodbye to your friends and teachers, maybe you've even finished revising for your exams. Now there's just that stretch between here and forever when things officially come to an end. You can almost taste the freedom of a well-deserved summer of doing nothing, but you're not there yet.
(I know this particular situation is true for at least the eight of you whose board exams got postponed at the very last moment last week, leaving you stranded again after a year of 'adapting' masterfully. That's rough! I'm thinking of you and cheering you on!)
Last week, the Atlantic's Amanda Mull published a piece about Pandemic Senioritis. In it, she spoke about the general feeling of almost being back at full gallop but having to rein yourself in for just a bit longer. She was writing specifically about places like the US, where a majority of the population is now vaccinated or on their way to being so, but where things still aren't fully open and people aren't making plans just yet. After a year of being locked up, things are almost back to normal for a lot of the population, but the tail end still looms, length unknown (and let's be honest, it could turn into another dragon). People are hopeful for a return to life as we knew it but are struggling in purgatory while also coming to terms with everything we have experienced over the past year - the mislaid plans, the pushed deadlines on big life events, the tempered highs, the prolonged lows. Everything all at once, but also, nothing really.
(I say places like the US because the US is not the entire world, and if how things are in India is any measure, this pandemic isn't going anywhere. We can learn how to find our balance in it, though, so read on.)
Leave the pandemic aside for a second. Senioritis is a great word for a meh feeling!
Senioritis explains the sense of purposelessness you may feel at the end of a 100-metre race that you sprinted to complete, but where the finish line gets pulled further as you get closer. Senioritis is the drudgery of one step in front of the other when an event drags on with no external incentive to put in the work. Any extra effort on your part in either of these situations doesn't really add to anything. The race you prepared for is done, the part that mattered is over, now it's just formalities till the end of the line.
Then what does matter? Where do we go when we are languishing in the doldrums? How do we find ourselves in this purgatory? What do we do to make the purposeless feel purposeful, or forget that, even just enjoyable?
Well, there's a lot you can do. Popular culture advises afflicted seniors to: 1) Try out things that will help them figure out whether the career choices they have made are the right ones for them ("Do an EMT course!"); 2) Work on "adult skills" like cooking, accounting, car maintenance; and also, less helpfully, 3) "Be optimistic" "Never, Never, Never Give Up".
But you also have another option: don't do anything.
This is my personal (lived) advice. Just be. Revel in this passing historic moment. "Lean in to the slowing down of time". Languish in it, get bored, learn to ride a unicycle if you really want to. Who cares? This golden in-between time you have is for you to experiment with, to make new routines, to try things that feel as out of place with your definition of you in that moment right there. This time is yours to tinker with and figure out whether a fleeting infatuation with something can turn into a full-blown romance. (Nobody cares if that romance turns into marriage. Nobody.)
In short: do (or don't do) whatever you want.
You have full liberty to do this because it doesn't matter to the past and it doesn't matter to the future. During one of my own most memorable bouts of senioritis, the six-month slog between the end of classes in my final year of school and before college decisions came in, I took the last of my time in Geneva to walk barefoot all over the city, sleep in a park overnight (Hi, mom and dad!), spend a day rolling out icing sheets with a lady who made party cupcakes in an attic, and dunk myself in the moss in freezing Lac Léman during what my friends and I pretended was summer.
The thing is: no one cares what you do, so if you want to and feel ready for it, do it. (NB: I am not advertising drugs!) Loosen the ties with which you bind yourself for a bit. Let down the reins. Find the joy in it. Or don't. Who cares?
Whether it happens during your last year of school, the butt end of a pandemic, or any other weird, unannounced time in your life, senioritis can often leave you feeling strangely in between places - like you have a frog stuck in your throat, croaking at you but refusing to go down. What do you do with that frog? Set it free. Do whatever. (Maybe don't do the drugs?).
Have you ever had senioritis? (Are you currently experiencing it?) How did you overcome it?
Just hit reply. Let's chat.
Links and things
For inspiration, hope, and resilience: This incredibly uplifting episode of Terrible, Thanks for Asking with Dr. Edith Eger, psychologist, Holocaust survivor, social worker, author, and Olympic gymnast. So much of what she said I want to carry with me forever.
For a really good read: Lily King's Writers and Lovers, which I've seen floating around my bookshelf for a while and was very glad I got into. King manages to get into her characters' skin so well I thought it was a memoir until I was halfway through.
If you thought social media was for 'young people': I present to you Gran-fluencers! aka 'seniors' with more social media clout than you may ever have.
If you thought your secondhand cast-offs were helping: Consider that Africa is the world's largest importer of secondhand clothes, and only because countries like India and the Philippines don't allow the import of secondhand clothes. "If we want to solve fashion's waste crisis...we have to reckon with its colonial roots" - Liz Ricketts, The OR Foundation (more on this soon)
And if you're still thinking about senioritis: Here's an on-brand meditation I could really get into:
That's all for this week. Hang in there, seniors! We'll see each other soon. ✌🏽
*Original quote by Yrsa Daley-Ward, in another context
Originally published on April 23, 2021