whelmed

/ November 2, 2020/ personal

The old english “whelmen” was paired with the prefix “over” sometime 600 years ago, and “overwhelmed” overtook the base word “whelm” in our vocabulary, probably because humans are hyperbolic creatures by nature. I advocate for a return to tradition, or a mutation of tradition, when I write to you now and say we should reclaim the bare “whelm” to describe the situation in which something or someone is on the verge of being overwhelmed, but hasn’t completely surrendered to the source of their overwhelming.

I am sufficiently whelmed this week. This past month, more like. This quarantine/pandemic? This year? I operate at or around whelmed most of the time I suppose, but right I am more whelmed than I am usually.

Most people I see online are overwhelmed by the looming election and expected civil unrest; if things really do pop off, I can only hope that our bloated empire is torn down and reborn in the flames of revolution as a glorious apparatus of the people… I find myself doubting that the election will be anything other than a week (perhaps month) long fiasco, a scene right out of a centrist wonk’s wet dream, before a Biden coronation. What fundamentally changes about the American death cult under Biden? My guess is: next-to-nothing.

The source of my whelming is more mundane; I’ve been feeling quite homely this senior fall semester.

It feels like the quarantine catches up to me more and more each day, and that people disregard the fact we’re living during a pandemic more and more as well. Like nearly every other student at the moment I’m left wondering how my professors care about our well being. Of course, the real reason we’re even having school is simply to continue filling the pockets of our administration, and professors by-and-large don’t control the nature of education under capitalism. Professors do, however, control the amount of work they dole out, how they set expectations for their classrooms, and the quality of their pedagogy. In my experience, professors have not demonstrated a sufficient understanding of the current moment. So I’m necessarily whelmed by coursework.

Add to a sufficiently whelming courseload: 1) a whelming public health crisis and 7+ months of isolation 2) comprehensive exams for my major requirements, 3) grading and other TA work responsibilities, 4) a complex and ever growing thesis project, 5) having to pack up and send some of my belongings home in anticipating of moving out from Amherst entirely in the spring (and pack up the rest of my belonging before I leave, since the administration is making me change dorms between fall and spring semesters for the 5th time this pandemic) you start to get why I’m constantly whelmed and always exhausted.

Another source of my whelming is a slower burn: the crackling embers of graduate school applications. Let alone the existential dread I feel, grad apps present a monstrous mountain to climb, one I’ll have to start soon if I’m to make the mid-December deadlines. While the GRFP certainly prepared me emotionally for the crunch of an important career deadline, I remain skeptical how much of my GRFP application I can repackage, and how much of my grad apps I’ll have to cook up from scratch.

Not all is terrible… last night I was able to read a chapter of a book. Other than that though, not much is great. It’s quite lonely being so far from home for so long, and it’s quite lonely being the single friend in your cadre too. Anyway. Hopefully sometime in the future I’ll have the time to write my next game, or start playing Hades (I heard it’s good), or finish watching Hannibal, or just chill out. For now, whelmed I shall remain.

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About willb

I'm Will, an undergraduate astronomer studying transition disks, direct imaging, and planet accretion and formation at the Follette Lab at Amherst College. I use they/them/theirs pronouns.

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