“Sometimes I have to remind myself that Palm Drive is beautiful,” my friend said to me the other day, when we were talking about the infamous “winter quarter blues.” This, in one sentence, encapsulated the mood that I had been stuck in for the past few weeks. This, in one sentence, also holds the cure to the “winter quarter blues” that I think many of us have been feeling lately.
The “winter quarter blues” refer to the dreariness that many Stanford students feel during winter quarter. It is a dreariness that results from a combination of things — the excitement of a new school year has died down; many of us went home over winter break (which may have served as a reminder of the comfort of family and deliciousness of home-cooked meals that we lack at school); there’s often more schoolwork to do with the trend of taking more units winter quarter; and the weather is usually cold and rainy (Okay, that hasn’t really been the case this year, but still).
As an eager, enthusiastic (perhaps naive) freshman in the fall, I could not imagine feeling dreary on campus – I was immensely blessed to have gotten into Stanford, and I was surrounded by beautiful palm trees and even more beautiful people. Each archway of Main Quad, each square inch of Green Library seemed special to me, and I could never imagine not being thankful to be here.
What I discovered, however, is how quickly human beings get used to their surroundings. Already, by winter quarter of freshman year, Stanford has become my norm — I’ve become used to it, spoiled by it. I grumbled all day on the few rainy days we had, complaining about the inconvenience of going to section — was I really learning anything in section anyway? I cried because I missed my family and high school friends. Day after day, I went past the beautiful Spanish-style architecture of my dorm complex, the massive mural painted on Memorial Church and the impressive archways of Main Quad, and I felt absolutely nothing.
Why wasn’t I giddy with excitement anymore? Why wasn’t I overfilled with thankfulness to be here? I was literally at one of the greatest academic institutions in the world, surrounded by some of the greatest friends and mentors in the world. Why wasn’t I completely overjoyed at all times?
After wallowing in guilt for not being super excited to be here, I snapped myself out of it. First of all, it was just a fact: I’d become used to and spoiled by Stanford, and feeling sad or guilty about it wouldn’t change anything. And second, no one should ever feel guilty for being sad, or for being happy, for that matter.
Instead, I have been practicing gratitude. And yes, it is something you need to practice, like soccer or the violin. When I see a tourist on campus, I remind myself that I go to a school that is literally a tourist destination, and I practice gratitude. When I stay up late to work on an assignment that has taken me an insane number of hours, I remind myself that I’m taking a class that I find interesting and important enough to devote an insane number of hours to, and I practice gratitude. When I’m going down Palm Drive with my friends to get dinner on University Ave, I remind myself that it’s beautiful, and I am grateful.
Contact Angie Lee at angielee ‘at’ stanford.edu.