Op−Ed | A call for fall break
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 08:11
As we begin to wind down from midterms, and I finally get an hour to myself during which I’m not frantically typing, eating or getting a few hours of sleep, I find myself wondering how I made it through the last two fall semesters intact. The short answer: I didn’t.
My freshman year, I took typically easy freshman classes, but I worked about 24 hours a week — which I consider the equivalent of my workload this year, all things considered. As the weeks wore on, I began to neglect sleep, then proper diet and even, regrettably, personal hygiene. I would work my butt off during the week, work at Flatbread in Davis Square Friday night, Saturday night and Sunday morning, and start anew on Monday. It all came to a head one Sunday morning, when, exhausted, I let my hand slip into the food processor I was cutting celery with and cut off the tip of my index finger, damaging my middle and ring fingers as well. I spent the day at the hospital, the next week on painkillers, and barely avoided needing additional surgery to repair my finger. The date was Nov. 7.
Sophomore year, I worked a grading job, and began taking more intensive engineering classes. After a few especially busy weekends, my parents asked me to house−sit, so late on a Friday night, exhausted from class, I drove a half hour home. I should, at this point, mention that I suffer from asthma. In my rush to get out the door after classes were finally over, I forgot an inhaler. When I got home I began to have symptoms of an acute attack, but I was so exhausted all I could think to do was go to sleep and hope it would get better in the morning. Turns out it wouldn’t — it had developed into a full−blown asthmatic crisis by morning. I drove all the way back to Health Services, and when the nurse realized I could barely get a breath out, let alone in, she sent me straight to the emergency room. I was given four nebulizer treatments and three doses of Prednisone before my symptoms were finally alleviated, at which point I was maintaining a regular heart rate of 140 beats per minute. A normal resting heart rate is about 60 beats per minute. Mine was what you’d expect to have during a cardio workout. I was admitted overnight and fitted with a heart monitor. The heart monitors are set to sound the alarm if your heart rate goes much over 140, so every time I moved an inch my nurse would come in, and every bathroom trip had them worried I was dying. Oh, and the date? Nov. 9.
When my parents got back from their trip, we talked about why it was that two years in a row, I ended up in the hospital on the exact same weekend. We concluded that I was overworked, and in my stressed state, I was neglecting to take care of myself. I took a look at my schedule to see when it all went wrong and realized something crucial, which I’m sure many of you have realized as well. Tufts, unlike many other colleges, has no fall break. We have a grand total of five regular school days off every fall, Thanksgiving included. This is ridiculous. Without a break, there is no time to catch up or unwind, and every day you choose to spend catching up on sleep or unwinding instead of doing homework only means more work later on. This causes us all undue stress, and for me, this twice manifested itself in the form of an unexpected hospital visit.
So with November upon us, I wanted to share my story so that it may serve as a cautionary tale, a wake−up call to the administration and a call to action for students. We need a break for our mental and physical health. I’m sure many of you are with me when I say I would gladly start a week earlier for a week off in October. I’d even give up a week of winter break if that helped at all.
I hypothesize that the petition to cancel school due to the hurricane was partially a symptom of our need for a little time off — Monday was simply amazing, but it shouldn’t take a natural disaster to afford us a day off. The reason that we have to endure this every fall is that we don’t express our frustration and exhaustion in a public enough way. This is how I’m doing my part. Fellow students, now it’s your turn.
Noah Kurinsky is a junior majoring in engineering physics. He can be reached at Noah.Kurinsky@tufts.edu.