I’ve always loved peppermint — some of my fondest winter memories include sipping peppermint hot cocoa with friends by a fireplace, collecting candy canes from family and friends and buying boxes upon boxes of Peppermint Joe Joe cookies when Trader Joe’s holiday season starts. Now, however, my fondness for peppermint extends beyond the holiday season: It is the perfect pick-me-up all year round.
This semester, I’m taking two once-a-week seminar classes. Because I’m trying to cut down my coffee intake — see an earlier column), I’ve been searching for other ways to give me the energy needed to make it through class. My friends kindly suggested I try Yerba Mate or Arizona Green Tea, but interestingly enough, I’ve found that the perfect afternoon pick-me-up is neither caffeinated nor a beverage. Rather, it is a red-and-white striped candy sitting humbly at the entrance of Frary Dining Hall.
The first few weeks of spring semester, I remember going to Bilingual Cognition and Translation in the 21st Century and crashing precisely at the 3 p.m. mark –– I’m a morning person and I much rather prefer morning classes. It pained me because the content — bilingual language processing and the concept of the “mythical English reader” — was interesting. As I stared at my laptop, however, and “took notes,” my eyelids felt heavy. I would type whatever I could make of the professor’s words to stimulate my fingers. Even if my mind wasn’t awake, at least my hands were.
Then one day, as I was leaving Frary, my eyes fell to a container brimming with peppermint candies. “Maybe these will help me stay awake,” I thought to myself. I grabbed a couple and tucked them into my trusty yellow fanny pack.
I made my way to Pitzer College that afternoon for my translation class, and the moment I felt my eyes drooping, I quietly unwrapped a peppermint and popped it in my mouth. Immediately, the sugar and bright aroma of peppermint woke me up. My eyelids no longer felt heavy, and even after the candy dissolved on my tongue, I remained alert through the end of class.
Leaving class that day, I momentarily felt like I unlocked a mini secret: a simple peppermint can prevent my mid-afternoon crashes. However, looking at the remaining mint in my bag, I was suddenly reminded of my middle school days when my teachers would pass out mints during standardized testing. “Eat it when you feel tired or nervous,” I remember one of my teachers saying. “You guys got this.”
Thinking back to this moment, I smiled. I remembered how my seventh-grade self would sleepily pop a mint in my mouth during standardized testing, trying to focus on the fraction problems in front of me, and now I was doing the same but as a college student discussing the politics of hyphenated identities. I realized that these candies are reliable pick-me-ups, regardless of if I am 12 or 21.
Since that day in my translation class, I’ve been grabbing a mint every time I leave the dining hall — the front pocket of my fanny pack is full of mints now. There are some days when, surprisingly, I don’t need one; I guess having two of these long seminars every week has trained me to allocate more energy to the afternoon. But there are also days when I find myself drifting again, and in those moments, I know just the thing that will wake me up.
Post-spring break and with the end of the semester on the horizon, I know that people are tired. Every time I talk with friends and ask how people are doing, “tired” is perhaps the most common response, among a smattering of other adjectives.
I know that there are a plethora of caffeinated beverages to choose from on the campuses to keep our energy up, and I still love my coffee, but perhaps the next time you leave the dining hall, consider grabbing a mint. It surprised me just how much a modest mint could keep me awake as soon as it hit my tongue when, just moments before, all I wanted to do was sleep.
Growing up, I always heard the phrase “food is fuel,” but I never associated it with candy. It’s a nostalgic reminder of how I’m growing up — how I’m wise enough now not to exploit the temporary energy boost candy gives but to pop a mint in my mouth strategically when I just need something small to stay focused. Who knows, peppermint may be just the fuel you, too, need to power through the rest of the semester. And just like my teacher in middle school said, you got this.
Emily Kim PO ’25 is from Irvine, California. She is not vegan but considers the vegan brownies at Frary to be top-tier.