It has been a year since I’ve worn pants to class.
It’s a strange accomplishment to have — one that I did not expect to achieve at Harvard (or anywhere). Ever since the pandemic began, I would be too lazy to roll out of bed and put on any other piece of clothing for class, so I’d wear my Hawaiian boxers and my day-old shirt. It became quite the habit for me day in and day out, with the exception of eventually changing my boxers and shirts.
Last March, on a random Friday afternoon, I lost any sense of normalcy I had once had. My regular, daily class schedule was replaced by Zoom classes filled with aching eyes and pixelated humans. We freshmen didn’t receive that necessary closure from high school to college. Now some of us are stuck, doing Harvard online in our childhood bedroom.
These circumstances have fostered social isolation and a merging of work time and break time. I cannot honestly say I’ve sat down and relaxed for the past year. My work and my time set aside for self-care have blended to the point where I feel guilty for not actively working on assignments or being busy at any given moment.
Constantly being busy might just be a way to keep me from dealing with the existential dread of living in a pandemic. But it also means I cannot escape to a place of peace — except a guilt-induced siesta. If I spend three to four hours on Zoom classes then spend a few minutes scrolling through TikTok or simply listening to music, I feel guilty for being unproductive.
Harvard’s administration has tried to remedy this crisis of students’ mental health by implementing "wellness days" and assuring us that college over Zoom is not harder, just different. This assurance has turned out to be completely false, and wellness days have failed us.
Wellness day mornings bring mental breakdown nights. What are wellness days supposed to be? A time to be away from screens, relax, and have socially distanced hangouts with friends and family? Should we just ignore the assignments professors have merely pushed to the next day and just “chill”? What is the point of these wellness days if we feel immeasurable guilt for not working on what is essentially the same number of assignments?
Wellness days would be extremely beneficial for all students if they were implemented correctly and all professors took them seriously. Successful wellness days require assignments not to be simply delayed by a day but rather not scheduled around them at all. A successful wellness day doesn’t mean simply changing live lectures to recorded ones. It means a complete day of relaxation without the stress caused by work due soon — something like what we would’ve gotten over spring break.
I understand we are working towards a Harvard degree, which means material that needs to be covered and comprehended. But is this material worth ignoring necessary periods of rest and further degrading student’s mental health during a global pandemic? Don’t forget Harvard, these are “unprecedented times.”
Yet, these unprecedented times don’t feel so unprecedented anymore. They have become our new normal. We’ve become content with Zoom calls and no personal time for rest as our new daily schedule. I’ve fallen into the trap of assuming life will simply be like this for another couple of weeks, months, or years. But no more. I refuse to continue working, studying, and living as if we were in a normal situation. The present bizarre situation deserves bizarre, eccentric, and odd actions to accompany it.
That is the true reason I haven’t worn pants to class — not because I’m lazy, but because of what those Hawaiin boxers stand for. They constantly remind me that this is not a natural way of life and caution me against getting comfortable with this as a new normal.
I understand that not everyone has Hawaiian boxers as spectacular as mine. But I urge you to maintain whatever bizarre habit, items, or behaviors that match the world we’re living in at present. These times don't deserve normalcy. And hopefully, by the fall, I will be able to meet you in person with a healthier space between work and play — and also with my pants on.
Markus I. Anzaldua-Campos ’24 is a Crimson Editorial editor.
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