The last two weeks
It’s the last week in November. Can you feel it?
Every day from here on out seems to dial up the pressure to start papers, make flash cards, finalize arrangements for next semester or start packing up the room. If you’re like me, all of these concerns blur together and lead to the inability to breathe, sleep or eat anything that involves more than a minute on high in the microwave.
It’s interesting to watch the distinctly different methods people use to get through this stretch and cope with the stress.
One strategy is to go at it alone and remove all distractions. Those who do this go into hiding with stashes of food reminiscent of a cold war and technology usage akin to that found in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. You’ll recognize them when one day they just fall off the grid, only to be seen again when the storm has passed. If you’re friends with one of these people, you might want to wait until they’ve had the chance to sleep, shower or stare blinking into the sun for a bit, as it can be somewhat unnerving to see them immediately after their self-imposed isolation comes to an end.
Other students hunker down together, finding strength in numbers. From the outside, it may appear to be some sort of misery pact, that is, if I’m writing this paper instead of checking my Tumblr every five minutes, then you must follow suit as well. It’s like a game of chicken with distraction that no one wants to lose, or a support group to talk you down from breaking your own concentration. If you find yourself saying, “Seriously, I just have to check this one thing” only to look up from a friend of a friend of a friend’s Facebook page hours later, this arrangement not might be for you.
I personally have an appreciation for the people who spend days on end in the library and still leave with their sanity. The florescent lights and the palpable stress leave me feeling even more anxious about my work, so I try to keep my time there during finals to a minimum. However, if you can stick it out until 3 or 4 a.m., there is a certain comfort to be had looking over the sleeping masses surrounded by their open books and scattered highlighters. It’s nice to be reminded of your humanity during finals, and no matter how bad your workload is, at least there are 26 floors of people to remind you that you are not alone.
Every semester I usually end up trying something different, or a combination of all three. My caffeine intake skyrockets to almost inhuman levels, and I move between periods of productivity and procrastination that seem extreme with the amount of work to be done. It has taken me two years, but I might finally embrace finals rather than pretend they don’t exist. I wish I could move through the work instead of mentally piling it up, like a sort of Zen approach to finals that results in all of the work with less of the agony.
If all of this seems premature, it’s because all of my final papers or projects will ideally be completed by the last day of classes. Pro: I get to go home early if I manage to pull it off. Con: I walk into the valley of stress long before most of campus.
So as I put together my finals playlist, gather my Post-Its and begin trudging back through readings looking for quotes, I wish everyone luck. If you find yourself overwhelmed, just try to remember the feeling of walking out at the end of your last final. There’s nothing quite like it and if past semesters are any indication, we can all hope to make it through to the end.
As for the freshmen hurtling towards the end of their first semester – don’t worry, this too shall pass.
Molly Boushell is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.