Why Pulling All-Nighters Destroyed Me

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Back at the dawn of time (AKA the beginning of freshman year), I made a tragic mistake—I picked up an 8 a.m. class. Typically, I went to sleep around midnight after finishing homework and woke up feeling like a zombie in The Walking Dead, waiting to get an arrow in the brain from Darryl.

I slept through class constantly. Why wake up so freaking early just to learn about chemical bonds? Trust me, you don’t want to go into a chemistry test knowing less than 10 percent of the material. The proactive student I am, I realized I needed to change my habits or I would totally fail all of my classes. School had only begun, and it beat me up like Rocky, in well, every single Rocky.

As I stuffed my face in my Pollo Tropical rice and beans around the third week of freshman year I overheard some kids discuss pulling an all-nighter. An all-nighter? Boom, problem solved. Tuesday night, I prepared all the essentials for this undertaking: Mt. Everest high stack of puffy Cheetos, an Amazon River of vanilla coca-cola and the glue to hold this entire plot together—endless episodes of Dragonball Z.

When my alarm rang at 7 a.m. with my eyes still wide open, I celebrated like Rocky making it to the top of the steps. I felt exhausted but more than ready for class to begin. I considered class successful. I took an extensive amount of notes, occasionally letting a yawn creep out into the world. Feeling accomplished, I headed right back to my dorm and passed out. When I woke up, it was pitch black. I looked down at my phone: 6 p.m. My little post class nap turned into a winter hibernation.

I only missed two other classes and about 300 messages from the group chat, what was the big deal?

As the semester progressed, my all-nighter count skyrocketed. If you asked me for a number, I’d estimate somewhere between a billion and a bajillion. I might as well have taken the title of “nightcrawler” from Jake Gyllenhaal.

I reached a point where I just couldn’t sleep at night. I spent my nights laying in my comfy bed with my comfy pillow under my comfy comforter unable to turn my brain off and recharge my batteries. I was a living, breathing Count Dracula. Minus the bloodsucking, no reflection and ability to turn into a bat. Not a huge fan of garlic, though.

One week, in mid-March 2015, a million PowerPoints, lab reports, research papers and homework assignments piled up in front of me at once. So little ol’ Brandon did what Brandon does best: Stay up. With a 12-pack of Five Hour Energy and a gift card to Starbucks at my disposal, I prepared myself to stay up until I completed every last project and assignment.

I crushed my homework within the first 24 hours and started work on my research papers. Sure, I felt tired, but nuggets from Chick Fil-A and a Dr. Pepper kept me fighting the good fight. My friends never noticed a change in my expressions or attitude.

After 48 hours, I became a grumpy grump. I feel so sorry for anyone who got in my way that day. I was a fire-breathing dragon who only loved tacos and unfortunately I was all out of tacos. It feels like only yesterday when Pablo made fun of my horrible haircut and I genuinely considered throwing him off the balcony. Pablo’s lucky he asked me if I wanted to get Chipotle just moments later.

72 hours awake. I felt as if The Hulk threw me through 15 skyscrapers. However, I needed to continue working. How worse could five more chapters worth of chemistry and half a research paper actually be at this point?

I chugged the last of my Five Hour Energy bottles, slurped the last drop of my Venti white chocolate mocha and began to churn out another restless night of studying. At this point I couldn’t focus, I felt like s**t and I just wanted to sleep. My tear ducts gave way, as did my nasal cavity. My face was literally Niagara Falls, and I had no tissues to help stop the flood. Not a pretty sight, I can assure you of that.

At this point, I felt sicker than ever but too stubborn to give up. I wanted to dream about bae or eat something other than Three Musketeers, but the concepts of double bonds and Carbon clouded my addled brain. I saw the finish line as my final test and two projects were due in the morning , and I could sleep, eat and relax all weekend long. I was going to push past the wall and make it.

96 hours. The golden number. I was done. I closed my Mac and stared blankly at the clean white wall in front of me. I looked down to view my fingers twitching involuntarily (something that still comes and goes to this day). My head felt like someone was continuously dropping bowling balls on my head over and over. My mouth quivered into a slight smile before dropping open once more due to no energy left to keep it closed.  managed to go four whole days without sleep and finish all my work. Victorious, it felt like I sprinted past Usain Bolt to win the 100-meter dash.

Now, remember how in “The Wolf Of Wallstreet” Jordan Belfort thinks he drives his Ferrari perfectly back home without hitting anything as he’s high on Lemmons, only to find out he destroyed everything? Turns out I endured a similar fate.

Remember the chemistry test I swore I studied so hard to pass? Turns out I’m not a master at electron orbitals after all and I ended up with a D minus. How about that research paper about the adversities Irish-Americans faced in the United States during the 1860’s? While in a rush to get to class, I forgot to print it out and lost a whole letter grade.

That afternoon after class, I walked in to my cold, poster covered dorm room and surveyed the jungle of empty Dorito bags, tower of coke cans and half-eaten Subway sandwiches. As I crawled into bed, ready for slumber until May, I reached an epiphany: Nothing is worth this amount of time, effort and trouble.

Even though I failed in terms of school, I gained a valuable lesson that I still carry with me today. So heed my warning, oh brave and inexperienced reader: Never pull an all-nighter. Otherwise, you may turn into me. Now there’s a horrifying thought, isn’t it?

Brandon is a Junior at Florida State University studying Editing, Writing and Media. He can be found raving about his fantasy football team that came in second place last season or eating something chicken related.

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