Looking for the sun

By Jonathan Koepke

It’s cold outside. It’s gloomy. It’s cloudy. It’s 5:30 a.m. and there is no way that I want to get up and go throw papers out the window of a drab white NIU van for the next three and a half hours. It’s February, and the only thing I can think about is the fact that I am going to go insane and kill that blasted groundhog for these three weeks.

All I can think about is that it hasn’t snowed significantly in well over a month, but there still is snow outside. The worst part of it is that it’s the nasty, dirty, gray-black snow that looks more like mounds of slag from a coal mine than snow. It gets a little sunny and just over freezing during the day, but the ice and snow never seem to diminish by much. Each day I just dream and think about barbeque and the fact that I have a new set of woods in my golf bag just dying to hit the links.

The technical term is Seasonal Affective Disorder, but it’s better known as cabin fever, and I have it. I never remember experiencing this so exactly before. I used to live in far northern Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Superior, so for everyone here who thinks winters in Chicagoland are bad, you have no idea what it can be like. It’s not like I hate the winter, either — it’s just that it has its time and place and that time and place has come to pass.

Seasonal Affective Disorder is believed to be caused by a lack of sunlight reaching the back of the retina in the eye. According to University of Alaska-Fairbanks researcher Julie Doorack, the prolonged decrease in sunlight during the winter months leads to an increase in the production of melatonin, a natural depressant in the body. While the exact effects of the disorder are not fully understood, regular exercise and spending some time outdoors each day are the best remedies for the problem.

Now while this sounds nice and good, it is rather difficult to spend a lot of time outside when the weather is so disgusting. Maybe the real solution is to fight it off until spring actually arrives. The question arises as to the signs of such a disorder. Now, many of the criteria for this problem may not be exactly scientific or outside the normal realm of what most college students usually feel and experience.

1. It is impossible for you to wake up in the morning, or anytime in general, even if you are sleeping in your living room recliner and your roommates are throwing an impromptu dance party.

2. Your general desire to do anything at all has been reduced from its usual level of sloth to something just above the level of complete motionlessness. (People who stop by poke you to make sure you are alive.)

3. The work you need to get done goes far beyond procrastination to the point where you just don’t do it because you don’t really care that much.

4. You did not get this far in the article because you fell asleep or just began to stare at the page without actually reading anything.

Probably the greatest relief for cabin fever lies just over the horizon. A week-long break from anything resembling work or classes for nothing but relaxing and, of course, drinking. This break is particularly sweet if you are able to get away to someplace warm and sunny.

In my case, this will be my first college spring break road trip to sunny Florida. Pack up the roommate’s jeep and get out of this frozen tundra, because there is nothing like sun, sand and beer. Right now there is nothing more I want than sand between my toes, a beautiful woman by my side and a cold beer in my hand. It’s my own little paradise, and it is my inspiration to get through each day.

For those of you who may not be as fortunate and be able to travel to a tropical or semi-tropical location, you can still have fun on your own. Get a kiddie pool and a few bags of sand (available at Jewel) and turn your roommate’s abode into your own tropical destination. Turn up the heat and play “Copa Cabana” and sip on a pina colada.

Maybe you won’t be able to fully experience the joys of the beach, but your little reckless escape may be just the remedy for your winter blues.