The turkey has been sacrificed to the undulating jaws of the children, the eggnog bled dry by the adults in a vain attempt to numb the unrelenting stress of the holidays, and the last presents disemboweled by eager hands lit softly from above by the glowing fairy-lights decorating the tree.
Auld Lang Syne is a ghostly echo in the distance along with the desperate cheers of partygoers decked from head to toe in tinsel and noisemakers. And now, the time has finally come. You must return to school.
Do not pretend that the silence of your apartment was not a welcome change to the maniacal screaming of your younger family members. Do not lie and say that you enjoyed being interrogated by your mother on your love life and your plans for the next ten years. We all know the truth.
And now you’re back.
Meeting the new semester’s professors wasn’t as bad as you’d built it up to be; they still had some humanity left in their bones.
You’d forgotten about the campus bikers, though. You know, the ones who’ve played Grand Theft Auto a few too many times, the ones who seem to think that they get extra points by bowling over as many students as possible before their bike’s light aluminum frame is pitched and they fly through the air, hitting the ground with a satisfying smack. Ah, yes. The bikers.
The skateboarders are little better, though they at least have the manners to weave in and out of the crowd instead of running the people down like Austin Powers in his steamroller. It’s the little things.
Walking campus is more of a challenge than you anticipated.
You can feel the Christmas cookies jiggling from their throne at your midsection, laughing cruelly as you come to realize just how inert you were over the break. Oh, you’d planned to work out. You’d even set up a schedule for it. But then Netflix uploaded Pride and Prejudice to its register, and it would have been a sin to leave that unwatched. Really, you were just doing your duty.
And someone had to taste-test the Christmas cookies before they were placed reverently upon the fireplace and everyone pretended that it was Santa who ate them. Someone had to lie upon the couch and make sure that Miracle on 34th Street was adored properly.
That being said, the weight of your duty feels more like a set of sandbags around your waist, and you secretly wonder whether you might have been a little overzealous in upholding the sacred Christmas rituals.
Sadly, there’s nothing you can do about that now, except trudge on and hope that your legs remember how to carry you. Not that their work isn’t cut out for them.
Truth be told, you’d almost forgotten the spine pain that comes from higher education. Yes, your backpack isn’t as heavy as it’s going to be in a few weeks, but that unfortunate truth only makes the coming days more foreboding.
It’s only been a day and you already feel like Quasimodo’s forgotten sibling. It can only go downhill from here.
But as you look around the quad and study the faces of your peers, as you see the sun peek out from behind the highest spires of the campus library and settle gently among the leaves and the stones and the brittle blades of grass, you can’t help but smile.
Yes, you’re tired. Yes, your back hurts and you have no desire to be up before noon. But, in a strange way, this twice-yearly ritual is almost a relief to you.
Because at the end of the day, this is where you wanted to be all along.