How Pandemic Burnout Has Led to the “Little Treat” 

Sammi Bray ’25

Opinion Editor

Every time I eat dinner in Mather, I am tempted to get a cup of cereal or some fries, and I cannot go to the library without buying something from Peter B’s. After what has felt like the longest two years, every activity I do that forces me out of my room feels worthy of a reward.  

It is even a trending idea on TikTok, with hundreds of users sharing pastries, lattes, and shopping hauls. Also trending is the sound “It’s like a reward,” with videos of users indulging in a snack after eating healthy all day, buying a treat to eat in the car after buying loads of groceries, or taking a long break after studying for approximately five minutes. 

Is our generation’s desire to implement treats into our daily lives a result of one too many participation awards? Maybe, but are we the ones who asked for such treatment, or was it simply given to us? As college students, are we adjusting to the lack of grades on every little assignment? Am I replacing the gold stars on homework assignments with Peter B’s lattes and five more minutes on TikTok before bed? 

 Perhaps it is instead a result of the burnout nearly every person is feeling right now: students are itching to leave the classroom, and Pew Research Center data finds that in November 2021, the United States had reached a twenty-year high rate of resignation.  

We are two years into a pandemic, with one distressing event after the next plaguing us on the news. Every moment I suspect that we may be returning to whatever normal is, another thing is thrown at us—insurrection, natural disaster, spikes in hate crimes. Our lives have been flipped upside down over and over again, resulting in many of the things we have looked forward to disappearing. We have consistently lived in a cycle of doubt, questioning whether things will happen the way we hope they will or even happen at all.  

So, do we deserve little treats? Pandemic or not, I am unable to argue against anything that is beneficial for one’s mental health. If having a sweet treat is the one thing we can really have control over, the one thing we can reliably expect, perhaps our little indulgences are essential for us making it out of this uncertain time okay.  

Beyond the pandemic, our generation’s relationship with success has shifted. We have long been taught the same ideals—a picket fence, a family, a stable and predictable job. To some of us, this is still the dream and nothing at all is wrong with that. But for others, the idea of what success is is quite different. Social media and technology have completely changed the job market, allowing many people to embrace their creativity and a lifestyle that is far more flexible. 

Our current financial and economic situation also impacts our idea of what success is. For many, the aspirations of our parents and grandparents feel out of reach. Instead, the one thing we can focus on is enjoying non-materialistic elements of life and, of course, the smaller things in life like little treats.  

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