Yes, it’s not an original line. But like it or not, winter IS coming (don’t you hate it when people in non-wintry places say that these days, and you know they don’t ACTUALLY know what that means?), and after 3 years here, I am finally realising that I should prepare for it rather than react to it.
The cold is what everyone warned me about when I got here, and my cousin sent me packages of warm clothes and socks and jackets all the way from Seattle. Yeah, the cold IS a pain, especially if it touches polar vortex levels (who would have thought ‘polar vortex’ would be words you just throw around) but that hasn’t been too much of a problem: honestly, if you are a grad student, you don’t have too much time to worry about the cold itself.
What got to me, instead, was the lack of sunlight. Winter in Ann Arbor is very dark: the sun is barely out, and everything is a lot more grey. Seasonal-affective-disorder really is a thing. Your body gets too little Vitamin D and boom, suddenly you are sleeping more, being more listless and less effective.
It took me a while to realise how SAD affects me, because there are ALWAYS things in grad school that could cause any of these. I first thought it was the homesickness, then the post-prelim slump, and finally connected the dots to realise it was seasonal. Vitamin-D supplements and hourly sessions involving bemusedly sitting by a sun-lamp later, there was a reversal.
What struck me about this whole episode was how long it took me to attribute a very seasonal change to…seasons. School can take up so much of our lives that everything seems tied in to it (yes, I call myself a researcher.) If there’s one thing Ann Arbor winters have taught me, it’s that this is not true.
So this semester, I am watching out for the short days, and as soon as the sun starts its hide-and-seek, whip out my sun-lamp armor to keep things bright and shiny.
Me and my sun lamp.