Classes are over for the semester, senior year is past its midpoint, but Thanksgiving break still feels like yesterday. I feel older, not wiser, still grasping at the last straws of magic — of a world slinking away. The gates of college contain within them a world of their own, as do amusement parks.
At 8 p.m. on November 27, I stood alone in the crowds milling in the plaza before the Magic Kingdom castle. Somewhere among the thousands of bobbing heads were my lost companions. But then the soaring lilt of Disney music began, phantasmic images careening across the castle exterior, and the first spark of fireworks lit up the velvet night sky. I touched my cheek and felt dampness on my fingertips. Each streak of the fireworks looked like a shooting star. I prayed for a gazillion things—a jumble of words—or perhaps they could be distilled into one desperate wish: please let me always be young forever, if young meant still sensing magic against all improbability. And then I allowed myself to sob, surrounded by the last echoes of childhood.
Will college too become lost magic when I’m older?
Thus began my first winter break on campus. I’d crawl out of bed in the thick of the afternoon, swathed in grogginess and twilight. The blinds over the common room window were staunchly shuttered, lunch a forgotten meal, my stomach always bloated with cookies and pistachios. I did Zumba at midnight, curled up on the sofa reading novels first thing awake, compulsively cleaned the room, curated Spotify playlists for every mundane occasion, and ambled down the darkened halls feeling like the only living human being in the whole of McKinlock. And for the first time in years, I was falling asleep near dawn, my inner clock recalcitrant, time ceasing to hold me accountable.
Does winter or the lack of daylight make people depressed? I felt fine. Strangely bubbly at weird hours even.
One night, sometime around 5 a.m. I found myself scrolling through Reddit threads on how to fix nocturnal sleep schedules. Various tips popped up: Wake therapy. Intentional sleep deprivation. Reduce sugar and caffeine intake. No more screen time in bed…All were too complicated for easy execution. I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I was basically living in the Hawaii time zone. If I wanted to reset my clock, I’d have to treat it the way I dealt with jet lag. So I stayed up from 2 p.m. till 8 p.m. the next day and then knocked out for fifteen hours.
At the Wizarding World, middle-aged, paunchy men in Hufflepuff cloaks waved wands, children dashed around like first-year Hogwarts students, couples sipped Butterbeers and swished around in reds and greens, and I knew I’d rather live in a world without colors than one without stories.