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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


OPINION: Seasonal depression goes beyond just heat in Tucson

Antonia Muskat

The desert stretches out beneath a setting sun at Gate’s Pass located at the west end of town off Speedway Boulevard.

During a typical Tucson summer, the people are not the only grumpy ones about the weather. Even the birds cease their chirping and the lizards hide in the shade.

If you have never spent summer break in Tucson, know that each year, it is a shocking reminder that the desolate desert makes for three months of isolation and monotony. 

University Boulevard turns quiet and undesirable without the bustling student life to energize it. The once traffic-ridden commute from home to campus during the school year lessens to a breezy 13-minute drive. The sun shoves everyone back inside to their couches and when thunder cracks, we take the warning from Mother Nature to stay put. 

Year round, Tucson is most enjoyable downtown and across the mountains, but frolicking outdoors was the last priority during a summer of record heat and limited storms. This year, surviving the heat was no joke, with heat-related deaths amounting to 42 in Pima County throughout July. Since natural sites like Sabino Canyon and the Tucson Botanical Gardens were off limits during sunshine hours, I struggled to find delight both inside and outside of my home. There was only so much Buffalo Exchange and Bookmans to purchase before my bank statements became alarming.

Perhaps the seasonal depression went beyond just heat and (what felt like) an empty city. After spending the majority of every summer in Tucson, I noticed that they always seem to close with a period of reflection. This year, I was especially uninspired as a local youth. I watched my peers travel overseas and to states as close as those bordering Arizona where they found opportunity and were refreshed.

Of course, that is not to say that there were no opportunities on the homefront. There was an abundance of volunteer activities at sites like the Tucson Wildlife Center or Ben’s Bells. Internships were also taken up by university students at places like Pine Reads Review and Raytheon Technologies. As a native Tucsonan, I always had trouble viewing my hometown as a plentiful realm of opportunity. In fact, I saw it as the opposite. It was not too small to be a ghost town, but it was not quite big enough for young people to pursue whatever interested them, either. 

The fact that some of my peers actually stayed in Tucson for such opportunities made me feel worse about my summer and my own pessimistic mindset. In my head, I was trailing everyone else because I not only lacked the financial security to leave for a substantial period of time, I also failed to take advantage of the chances I did have. It almost felt like a waste working an eight hour shift, coming home and taking a nap every day. My friends kindly tried to reassure me that “At least [I was] making bank,” and that their money was completely spent after this summer’s travels. But the money I was making was out of necessity and they were “broke” because their families had funds to spare. 

It was also a challenge to stay off social media in lingering moments of boredom, and it was even worse staying on. I was constantly tantalized by Italian lattes, Hawaiian beach days and gorgeous hiking adventures all over Instagram. At the same time, I knew that if I deleted the app I would feel disconnected from my peers, itching to be let in on their life updates. 

I kept digging myself deeper into this hole with the depression of not having anyone around and seeing those who were around succeed. This whole time, I was sort of in denial about the fact that I could have been productive right at home but felt too tired and unmotivated to do anything about it.

Before college started, my friends and I had summers where our biggest worries were high school relationships and hectic family vacations. Now we are burdened by the whispers of our own anxieties telling us to hurry up and progress our careers. This summer, as I approached junior year, I spent several months worried that stocking shelves and sporting my customer service voice almost 40 hours a week wasn’t enough while all of my friends studied abroad or had research internships. 

I had to come to terms with the fact that productivity is expensive, and I can’t exactly help my lack of experience. We are all part of a spectrum; college students are trickling into their financial independence and some of us have more to fall back on than others. As much as I can try to find free, rewarding activities to occupy my time, I cannot yet afford to fulfill the dream of traveling to distant lands. For now, I have to stick to what is in my reach and be less hesitant to take on smaller-scale projects. Even though my studies have not taken me abroad, they are still applicable beyond my hometown and I am still able to expand my cultural horizons through local experience. 

Ultimately, summer break may feel like it’s dragging in the moment, but it is only a few months of a lifetime we have to “figure things out.” Maybe some rest and contemplation are not so bad when the distractions of due dates are at a minimum. This depression was seasonal after all, and it might have been the realization I needed to start the fall semester strong.

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Noor Haghighi is a UA student exploring ways to harness her passions in environmental science and journalism. She loves wildlife photography and portraiture, fashion, music and film.

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