It seems like the cherry blossoms are in bloom for good this time. For the past month, we have been getting glimpses at what spring looks like at Duke. In the past two weeks, we have seen spring in full bloom and there is no going back. 

Duke students know what to do this time of year—even first-years who haven’t experienced spring on campus before. As soon as the temperatures plateau around 75 degrees and the clouds roll away, students hang hammocks, head to the gardens and repopulate the Bryan Center plaza. It seems like this resurgence of half-decent weather is gladly welcomed on campus.

Yet, I write this article trapped inside of a lecture for a class that is almost completely self-taught. After this class ends, I’ll head out to another seminar where attendance is mandatory. After that, I’ll head to a discussion section that only grants me two missed absences a semester. Most of the year I am willing to schlep myself from class to class even if only to take advantage of attendance points. But, when it looks this good outside, I find it painstakingly difficult to make it to class. 

The decision is a pretty clear one: I could either go to class and save my grade, or go outdoors and save my emotional well-being. If we take a close look, we see the same sort of tradeoffs in many areas of Duke life—choosing between enjoying a night out with friends or studying for a test, for example. This decision is compounded in the spring, when the sun finally returns. 

I, like many of my undiagnosed and potentially unaware peers, have a mild case of seasonal affective disorder. SAD, as it is appropriately abbreviated, brings about a state of melancholy due to unfavorable weather conditions—gray skies, rainy mornings and somber afternoons. Most of the year at Duke is laden with conditions ripe for my SAD-ness. Like clockwork, I fall into a routine to overcome the gloom that hits Durham every late September. I force myself to go to class because staying in bed would be worse for my mental health. I spend late nights in Perkins because I would be spending that time indoors anyways. Any fun I have with my friends takes place in the confines of our common room because the weather eliminates the possibility of frisbee or Spikeball on the quad. Most of the year, I am forced inside.

It’s easy, then, to stay academically afloat. If I have to be inside, I might as well go to class or the library. I’d rather stick my head in the proverbial books that spend a minute in the frosty Durham winter. As a result, my grades spike as the temperature drops. 

But then spring comes. 

The sun peeks out from behind silver-lined clouds. My mood, like the temperature, begins to rise with every inch toward a sweltering summer. No longer am I forced to flee the dreary outdoors. No longer am I bound to a routine predicated on beating out my seasonal affective disorder. I feel reinvigorated. I feel renewed.

The only problem is that my shift in attitude does not re-energize me to end the semester strong—it does the opposite. Where I used to feel like I had to go to class, I now feel like it is my obligation to skip class and actually have fun. Slowly but surely classes are skipped, midterms go unstudied for, and responsibilities are avoided. The impact on my academic life is substantial enough to remind me that I am still a student whose primary responsibility is to study. But, at this point in the semester, I am ready to risk it all to just go outdoors. 

What do I do instead of what I am supposed to do? I, like most other Duke students, take advantage of the weather. I hang my hammock in a hidden spot between my two favorite trees on campus. I pass frisbees with my friends in the gardens. I take long walks around the graduate schools. I spend entirely too long eating meals on the swinging benches on the BC plaza. 

Not only are these activities fun for me, but they actually improve my mental health. For the past seven months, I have had to cope with overarching grayness of my life at Duke. Some of that grayness is reflected in my more pessimistic columns from the year. Now that the sun has returned and made me less SAD, I have begun to enjoy my experiences on campus significantly more. 

It is such a shame, however, that maximizing and enjoying my Duke experience has to come at the expense of GPA points stripped away for classes missed and assignments forgotten. So, while it is the case that spring is on the rise and my GPA is about to fall, I know it is only temporary. When I return for my junior year things will turn gray and my performance in school will improve. What a sad reality.

Ryan Williams is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs on alternate Wednesdays.