Soaking up the last hours of shameless indolence on my living room couch (my home for the past three weeks), I both mourn and delight in the end of December break. Tomorrow dawns the beginning of Midd Kids’ annual heyday: the month long party, a skiing utopia, the chance for academic indulgence, or, as a good friend often says, “straight up the most epic four weeks ever.” J-Term is the reason many students chose Middlebury and is undoubtedly a cherished tradition by all. Reviewing the J-Term bucket list my roommate and I recently composed, I’m struck by my expectations. Ambitious, some would say, unrealistic, others. Like many single sophomore girls, I have by no means ruled out the “definite likelihood” my future husband has enrolled in the same course. Nor have I questioned the probability I will hit up the Snow Bowl weekly, make spontaneous trips to the Ben & Jerry’s factory, take on aqua aerobics or master a full Jack Johnson album on the acoustic guitar… which I will also learn to play first. So, are my critics right? Am I an overly romantic idealist with time management skills indicative of a Middlebury acceptance driven solely by connections? Maybe. But I would argue this fantasist is an alter-ego residing within each Middlebury student, and surfacing in all some how during these treasured winter weeks.
I doubt many Midd Kids would deny the existence of this “alter-ego”; my experience reveals that many, myself included, openly embrace it. Yet I question, how healthy is it for us, as Middlebury students, to have two such distinct mindsets? I’m somewhat troubled by the concept of manually switching from a micro-managed, academically-focused mindset to a socially indulgent, “I’m so chill” attitude come the end of fall, only to switch back four weeks later. Granted, not all Midd Kids experience such a drastic change (respect to all y’all with sanity I certainly don’t possess during Fall and Spring semesters), but many do. I couldn’t count how many more smiles, laughs and hugs I see during J-term. The difference is exponential, if you take the time to notice. Not to mention how many less conversations start and end with “I’m so stressed,” or “I have so much work,” comments that flow like scripts during Fall semester. While I sincerely value this period of relaxation, I think the scale’s a little off balance. I suppose the lesson I want to offer is, take a moment and reflect upon the level of distinction between your four-class and one-class states of mind. Refrain from eagerly welcoming J-Term as your “escape,” or the one month you can permit yourself to spend an extra hour talking in Proctor, or actually sleep the eight hours you deserve. Rather, make a commitment to view your J-Term self as a continuation of your Fall/Spring semester self, and vice-versa. There’s a reason we smile more, feel closer to friends, and have more romantic success (yes, this too) during J-Term. Consider what inside you lets loose and enables this success during January. Write it down, if you’re into that. Most importantly, promise to carry these qualities of your “J-Term alter ego” we all love and look forward to, into the inevitably impending Spring semester. If we all do it, I’ll bet three free trips to Ben & Jerry’s we’ll be healthier and happier in months to come.