Fall Break: Expectations vs. Reality

Sometimes I like to lean back in my rocker, kick up my slipper-clad feet, knock back the last of my scotch, and regale my younger Yale friends with tales of what life was like back during my freshwoman year.

shatner gif

Pretty much exactly this.

For the most part, those were the good ol’ days, back when kids still danced safely to the best of the 80s at an annual Safety Dance, when people had only recently started associating the last day of the work week with Rebecca Black, when the word “poopetrator” had yet to be shat into existence, and when a bushy mustache still comprised one-third of our Dear Leader’s face.


We’ll mention this in every article until you bring it back, Petey.

But one of the ways in which I’m thankful for time’s inexorable forward march is that we no longer have to experience life without a fall break. And here, little youths, enlies the scary part of the story. Hold onto your security blankets and your bowels, because I’m about to tell you of the draining, Blue State-fueled slog through fall semester, of the collective campus delirium we all experienced as we crawled our way, zombie-like, through November and finally stumbled into Thanksgiving break, only to sleep through most of our family time in a coma induced by equal parts stress-overload and gravy-soaked turkey.

cackling ursula

I like seeing the fear in their eyes when I put on my scary voice to tell them that we once had to go 12 full weeks of classes with no respite.

Yes, that part can stay in the past. You’ll get no arguments from me, a person who avoided school for a year by running away to Disney World, that fall break is a waste of time, that we should pull up our bootstraps, stiffen our lips, and deal with an extra three days of class per semester. I’m all for a little non-holiday-justified R&R in the middle of the semester.

However, I did recently realize one drawback of fall break: its existence has done absolutely nothing to mitigate neither the amount of work I have nor the amount of panic I feel about said work. To put it in mathematical terms, extra free time does not equal more work done.

fall break mathIt mostly equals more Netflix and an increase in stress about how little I’m accomplishing.

This is a phenomenon I call “The Fall Break Productivity Fallacy.” It refers to the difference between how much work the average Yalie expects to complete during fall break and the amount of work they actually accomplish. This is always a large ratio, and it is a robust measure, holding in 100% of empirical tests I’ve conducted (mostly on myself and observationally by eavesdropping on other peoples’ dinner conversations).

productivity fallace

Being awfully scientific here at the Boola today!

The Fall Break Productivity Fallacy leads to what I call the “Zone of Disillusionment” as depicted above. This is where, throughout the course of fall break, you realize just how little you feel like doing and, relatedly, how little you will get done. It’s a merciless smashing of your expectations that, at worst, ends in an existential crisis where you’re left wondering if you’re just a fundamentally unproductive person with no will to do anything unless forced by class obligations and incessant gcal reminders. It usually looks a little something like this.


You could just stop reading here, since this is essentially all the below text in gif-form

1. Homework: papers, psets, and Proust, oh my!

rory smelling book

How much I like to pretend I like doing schoolwork

Expectation: You’re going to accomplish all the things. Fall break is ostensibly the time when you can not only catch up on all the work you’ve been putting off, but also get ahead on future work so you can coast through the rest of the semester with less stress and more Toad’s. You might even consider doing preliminary research for final papers that aren’t due until the end of finals period, because you’re a fucking champ.

do all the things

Productivity: the dream! Creds to the hilarious

Reality: You might get a few problems on that one problem set done, but you’re still turning in that paper late on Monday morning.

not today

Above: the day you start working on said paper

2. Exercise: bring sexy back? That falsely implies it left you in the first place!


That’s right, readers. You can take that compliment right to the bank!

Expectation: Aware that your college gym will likely be emptier than normal over the coming few days, you make lofty fitness goals. You’re going to blast your favorite guilty pleasure songs, pump iron without worrying that you look stupid, and finally have the opportunity to use the good treadmill. You know you’re going to look so good tearing up the dance floor in your “sexy Ebola doctor” costume at next week’s HalloWoad’s.


I know that Ebola joke was inappropriate. By way of apology, please enjoy this funny gif

Reality: 20 minutes on the elliptical’s lowest setting while watching Netflix counts.

fat and lazy

Also, excessive napping essentially works like hibernation, right?

3. Socializing: ‘cause the party don’t start till I. Walk. In

party don't start

Something something Ke$ha something something

Expectation: With so much free time and the clear conscience you’ll have about your infallible homework and exercise regimen, you’ll have tons of time to catch up with friends in ways that your schedule normally doesn’t allow. Maybe you’ll make reservations at your favorite restaurant, or spend the day climbing the walls at City Climb Gym. You might even make plans to spend a day or two in Boston or New York City, soaking up culture at the MoMA, gathering hilarious instagram posts at the Museum of Sex, or going for a stroll around Central Park.

selfie master

And master your selfie game!

Reality: Sitting on a futon eating pizza and wearing the same sweatpants you’ve worn for three days straight is sad and pathetic only if you do it alone. Add in a friend, and boom! You’re getting your human interaction for the day.


This is advanced level stuff. Baby steps, baby steps

4.Netflix: i.e., life

Expectation: You know you’ll spend a significant amount of time vegging out to Netflix – you’re not naïve, after all. Probably at least a few episodes of House of Cards, maybe see what documentaries Neil DeGrasse Tyson has released, or tear through a season of Orange is the New Black. But nothing crazy.

crazy eyes

Nowhere near this level of crazy

Reality: Heroin addicts would mock your lack of self-control.

Kelso laughing


That’s okay, I’m right there with you. By the way, That 70’s Show is on Netflix, so hop to it!

At least, this is how fall break always goes for me. But hey, there’s always next year! Keep the dream alive.