Van De Loo: SAD is more than just an emotion

Jonathan Van De Loo, Op-Ed Contributor

Acclaimed author George R.R. Martin (Medill ’70, ’71) has penned many iconic phrases throughout his work on the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series. None, however, feel quite as applicable to real life as “Winter is coming.” For those unfamiliar with the book or TV series, the phrase refers to an apocalypse of sorts. In essence, evil zombie-like ice people called White Walkers attempt to destroy the land of Westeros by plunging it into an eternal winter. They aim to squash out all light and cover the realm in darkness — think of a polar vortex, but about 1,000 times worse.

One can only assume this bleak phrase stands as an allegory for one thing: seasonal depression. According to the Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit healthcare organization, “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons — SAD begins and ends at about the same times every year. If you’re like most people with SAD, your symptoms start in the fall and continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.”

None of the characters in Martin’s novels flat-out say they have seasonal depression. However, it can be inferred from all the explicit, heavy-handed imagery that equates winter with death that these characters are not experiencing emotions like fun, joy or relaxation.

Lots of Northwestern students aren’t from places where intense cold or snowstorms are a common occurrence. There is no need for a thick jacket, strong boots, or ski masks and gloves. On top of requiring heavier clothing and making walking to class more difficult, winter also takes a mental toll. Aversion to the cold may lead one to spend a lot of time cooped up in their dorm. Earlier sunsets and dim gray skies can have profound effects on one’s mood. The internal mind can take on the external symptoms of the season. Staying positive during the midpoint of the year is difficult enough without being surrounded by gloomy skies and frigid winds.

While the characters in Martin’s novels fought off White Walkers with various medieval weapons, dragons and some blood magic, I have a different method to combat the darkness of winter: drawing on the power of Hot Girl Summer.

Megan Thee Stallion, rapper, Texas Southern University student and overall cultural prophet, started the popular phrase “Hot Girl Summer” in April of 2018 on Twitter, tweeting: “This abt to be a REAL HOT GIRL SUMMER.” In a 2019 interview, when asked about the meaning behind this phrase, she replied: “It’s just basically about women — and men — just being unapologetically them, just having a good-ass time, hyping up your friends, doing you, not giving a damn about what nobody got to say about it.”

In addition to becoming a popular Instagram caption, Megan’s iconic phrase is a state of mind. We can all develop a relationship with our inner Hot Girl, and invite her onto the Northwestern campus and greater Chicago area. I have included below some suggestions of various ways the principal of Hot Girl Summer can be applied to everyday life, though feel free to interpret this mandate however you would like.

Create a pump-up playlist and throw yourself a five minute dance party at various points of the day, just because you can. Public, private – grab some friends and get crazy! Try dressing however makes you feel cute and powerful; wearing comfortable clothes that you like can be a great mood booster.

Sporadically text your friends positive messages throughout the day to hype them up. Make plans together to take advantage of concerts and performances happening on campus. Try to do something new at least once a week: maybe a food you’ve never had before, a store in Downtown Evanston you’ve never visited or a part of campus you’ve never spent time at.
Try going to that student organization you’ve always thought seemed fun, but were always too nervous to try. Go out into Chicago! Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean the city stops being a lot of fun. Take advantage of those students discounts. There are so many events advertised on Facebook. Start liking and following pages that recommend them.

As we drudge through February, with spring seeming so close yet so far, remember: winter may be a season, but Hot Girl Summer is a state of mind. White Walkers dont exist, but a Hot Girl resides within us all. It is up to us to set her free. Go forth, hotties, and keep on thriving.

Jonathan Van De Loo is a Communication freshman. Van De Loo can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @vandeloo_j