OPINION: During NTI, take your own snow day


Snow falls heavily on a small park in Crescent Hill. Photo by Molly Gregory.

Guest Contributor

This piece was submitted by Luc Fabing (11, HSU).

A couple days ago, I went sledding in an ice storm. It had been one of those days that I think a lot of us have dealt with way too often over the past several months of NTI. A day that seemed to differentiate itself from its predecessors only by a higher number on the calendar. 

It was a day emblematic of the demoralizing pattern of behavior I’ve fallen into lately, defined by an endless game of tug-of-war between the mounting pressures of college admissions, classes, and standardized tests, and the crippling lack of motivation created by months of repetitive isolation.

Another day where I found myself sitting at my desk, scrolling through the bloated notes app that barely even classifies as a to-do list anymore; glued to my chair by the seemingly-endless obligations laid out before me, but taking hours just to convince myself to complete the simplest task. I don’t think I really understood what it was like to be bored and stressed at the same time before March 2020 — now it’s pretty much my reality.

It was during one of these all-too-common days that my little sister asked me to go sledding with her. 

The weather was… bad. I could hear the sleet clattering against the roof of my house and thunder rumbling in the distance. When I stepped out onto my porch and held out my hand, little balls of ice bounced off of my palm. The air hissed with the sound of millions of grains of ice striking trees, sidewalks, and roads. I checked my phone; it was 20 degrees outside. I checked my to-do list; it was as impossibly full as ever

“I’m going to get sick,” I thought, “It’s miserable outside, I have to write a speech, I’m hours away from finishing my homework, I don’t have time for this, I don’t want to go sledding in an ice storm.” But my sister wanted to go, and for some reason I agreed. 

The wind whipped sleet into our eyes as we slid down the hill, not on a layer of powdery snow, mind you, but on a sheet of crunchy ice. Our coats were soaking wet, our gloves filled with frozen slush, and our socks and boots the temperature of the sleet pellets that blanketed the ground. When we got home, it took me a solid half hour just to be able to feel my fingers again. 

And yes, I ended up falling a little behind on my homework. Yes, the next day I woke up with a headache and a stuffy nose.

But you know what? I think sledding in that ice storm was the best thing I’ve done for my mental health in all of the time since we started NTI 2.0 last August. It was fun. It was different. It was something to make February 15th worth remembering. And, for a few hours, the to-do list was the last thing on my mind.

I think that a lot of us have allowed ourselves to fall into rigid schedules and repetitive patterns of behavior over the many months we’ve spent more-or-less trapped in our houses. We spend our days on the same class calls at the same times every day, procrastinating on the same sorts of assignments, and staying up until the same absurd hours of the night.

Many of the activities that once got us out of the school building for a day or two, took us to another city for a weekend and added just a little splash of variety to our lives— they’re now restricted to zoom meetings, confining us to the same tables and chairs that have consumed our time for nearly a year now.

For me, even the things I do with the explicit purpose of diversifying my days, like running or playing guitar in the park during my lunch break have adopted a sort of “scheduled” quality.

I think this repetition is breaking our brains. It’s making us feel miserable and trapped, as if we’re spending every day walking through the confines of a narrow tunnel with no light at the end. Sometimes we need to do something completely different, something we wouldn’t ordinarily allow ourselves to do, just to break up the flow.

We need to forget about goals and schedules and responsibilities, test scores and assignments and college applications— just for a few hours. It is important to consider the consequences of our actions, but sometimes we Manual students feed our doubts until they grow larger than the bounds of reality would ever permit.

So please, if you find yourself feeling like me: stuck in the monotony of NTI, trapped between a looming mountain of stressors and an impenetrable swamp of lethargy, go sledding in your own ice storm. Leave your desk behind for a few hours, go see a couple friends outside, do something exciting or goofy or wild or even a little bit risky.

Take a chunk of your day and push aside thoughts like “I don’t have time,” or “it isn’t worth the effort,” or “I don’t feel like it” and just go do something. I promise, you probably won’t get frostbite.