I would consider myself a fairly healthy person.
I often stay up until 3 a.m. watching health documentaries on Netflix. I always skip the whipped cream on my tall, double shot, extra drizzle, caramel Frappuccino. And I exercise regularly in the sense that I sometimes take the stairs.
Therefore, the ease in which sickness manifests itself within my body continues to mystify me.
Furthermore, I don’t understand the disparity between being sick at home and being sick at school. In third grade, I was sent home with a fever and promptly diagnosed with the flu. What followed was perhaps one of the greatest weeks of my life.
I got to stay in bed all day while my mom brought me soup and ginger ale. There was a delightful “Zoey 101” marathon playing on TeenNick. I read leisurely and finally figured out the rules to Solitaire.
Aside from the high fever, headaches and monstrous cough, life was good.
In contrast, I caught a cold last semester and died. I was dead. I’m pretty sure my soul left my body when I was taking a German quiz. There was no soup or ginger ale. I had no energy to read books or download “Zoey 101” off the internet.
My time was spent lying in my miniscule dorm room bed, quietly contemplating the tapestry on my wall and periodically putting one arm in the air to make sure I could still move. One question kept rattling around in my head: Why does getting sick in college suck so much?
There is the obvious distinction of having to deal with illness on your own, maybe for the first time. This means making the painful pilgrimage up those never-ending UC steps with a 102 fever for a coveted Chick-fil-A sandwich or running to Einstein’s at 11:54 p.m. because you slept all day and forgot to eat.
But friends and roommates are always empathetically ready for a quick run to the pharmacy or to grab food on the way back from class. When an epidemic breaks out on campus no one is really alone; we are all suffering together.
Yet, there is something that elevates that anguish, to make sickness in college especially miserable. Is it the inconvenience of it all?
Sure, I can compose a pleading email to my professors to get out of class for a few days, but that doesn’t mean the chapter we cover is going to fall off my syllabus magically.
Most students fall into deep denial when symptoms start to emerge. For example, if I feel especially tired I ignore it and drink extra strong coffee. If my throat starts hurting I drink some nice, warm, soothing coffee. If I have a headache I down ibuprofen and chase it with coffee.
Then when friends ask me if I’m feeling okay because I look like a literal zombie, I feel affronted. I’m fine, really. I don’t need sleep. I’m a machine. There are things to be done, and I’m going to do them even though I can’t feel my face, and my throat is quite possibly on fire.
The fear of being left behind cultivates stress and anxiety which weakens the body even more and allows sickness to flourish. The task of weighing the severity of the illness against academic importance falls squarely on the students’ shoulders.
Do we follow the advice of lifestyle bloggers everywhere and stay in bed all day while drinking copious amounts of water? Or do we power through and finish the two quizzes, three papers and one test assigned for the week? The answer is subjective, depending on the student.
I guess this is where the decision-making part of adulthood comes in. One second, let me call my mom real quick.