A graphic of a hand interacting with a lightswitch on the side of someone's head, as if to turn their brain off
Graphic / Wikimedia Commons
The stress of COVID-19 in addition to the peculiarities of suddenly switching to online classes can lead one to turn their brain off.

Last Tuesday, I logged into one of my early morning classes using the Zoom app on my phone. I popped my AirPods in, flopped back down on my bed and fell asleep. 

If there is one thing being stuck inside all day has done, it has sapped away all my willpower. Combine a lack of desire to do anything with online classes lacking in engagement and it’s a recipe for severe brain shrivelege. If this goes on for another semester, I don’t think I will be able to recover. 

I genuinely enjoy learning things in my classes. Sitting in a lecture and having my feeble mind inundated with knowledge is exciting. I don’t just learn in the lectures, but I learn from the discussions with my classmates as well. 

Both of these sources of learning for me were missing during the tail end of this semester. Online lectures were so much harder to not get distracted in. It was so easy during a particularly boring topic to just drift my mouse over and open a new tab, or open Twitter on my phone. Even when I tried to discipline myself, working from home wasn’t conducive to good learning when quarantined against my will with family. Case in point, while I was trying to jot notes down from a pre-recorded lecture the other day, my little brother started blaring Pop Smoke’s song “Christopher Walking” from his TV speakers. Look, I love Pop Smoke, but he’s not exactly “lofi beats to study and chill to.” To make matters worse, there was very little meaningful discussion during Zoom lectures. I’m just as camera-shy as all the other people in class, and it was awkward and lacking the normal benefits of a lecture environment. 

In general, I was just no longer in the right headspace to learn things. My mental state could best be described as a low-quality .JPEG of Ben Affleck smoking a cigarette. It was bleak. It was tiring. It wanted to find a small moment of relief amongst the gloominess, but it was not there. My professor tried explaining a complex topic the other day and all of the information bounced off of me because my mind was too busy wistfully thinking about how nice it would be to no longer exist as a human and become a worm instead. I crave the simple and oblivious life on an invertebrate earth-eater. It’s not the kind of mental state good for learning. 

Furthermore, going to school during a pandemic lacked the normal “rhythm” of day-to-day life. It’s a rhythm I desperately need to stay sharp. I need periodic and predictable cycles of good news to counteract bad news. I need things to look forward to and be excited about to propel me through periods of slog. When the NFL Draft happened it was the first time in a month I felt productive. I wrote two essays those three days because I knew it wouldn’t last. 

All of this is to say, I hope we figure things out so next semester isn’t online. The university recently said they were planning to have in-person classes next fall, and I sincerely hope this comes to pass. I know that might be optimistic, but I feel bad brazenly lying to my professors. Sorry professors—I’m not learning any of the concepts, I’m just reading the lecture slides over and over to pass the tests. As soon as they finished, the information was defenestrated through my brain-window into a garbage can of discarded knowledge. It’s not your fault, it’s mine—and the virus’s. 

Vincent Rendon can be reached at vrendon@sagebrush.unr.edu or on Twitter @VinceSagebrush.