Join me in ancient times before 90 percent of college students owned MacBooks and still proudly carried around the beaten up PCs they sported in high school.
There I lay, face up in my first home at Florida State University, a small cement box passing as a dorm room in Smith Hall. My pink and green striped bedspread soaked in the nervous sweat on my neck, and the Toshiba laptop propped on my knees made a soft clicking sound as if to say, “Tsk, tsk, you should have started this paper a week ago!” Occasionally, I typed “a” or “the” to see if those articles sparked any inspiration for my eight-page paper on the metaphors presented in “Flatland,” a science fiction story that personified two-dimensional objects. I sighed. Nothing.
I concocted a plan. At 11 p.m on a dreary Wednesday night, my paper, due on Friday morning, loomed over me, along with the additional three final exams scheduled for that day. I hadn’t studied at all yet, but my schedule was foolproof.
Step 1: Write all night. Throw back a Redbull hourly and ignore possible negative heart effects in the name of earning a bachelor’s degree. Complete paper by 7 a.m. Thursday morning.
Step 2: Sleep a well deserved five hours until noon once I finish the paper. Cram studying for Race and Ethnicity, College Algebra and Computer Fluency into a solid 10 hours. Ignore feelings of faintness, nausea or delusion.
Step 3: Crawl into bed at 10 p.m., exhausted, but having accomplished everything. Sleep peacefully, knowing that I did everything possible to maintain a respectable 3.5 GPA.
And so, fresh-faced and naïve, I plowed away at my paper. After six hours hours of taking breaks to scroll through Instagram every 15 minutes because “I deserved it,” I typed those ever-so-satisfying words: “In conclusion.” Just as I moved my middle finger down the keyboard to strike the comma key, my computer’s disapproving clicks sped up; my computer shuddered and let out a loud and menacing “BEEeeeeEEEP.” The screen went black.
Sadly, the shiny, new auto-save gods of the MacBook Pro couldn’t save me. Numb disbelief washed over me as I restarted my depressing little Toshiba and opened my file to realize only one page of my work remained intact.
After a solid two hours of mourning, I did what every college student must do: I restarted my paper.
I rewrote every single word that I had written just hours ago. And friends, I rewrote those words terribly. Now, I know you must be thinking, “But you already wrote it. Surely it was easier to write it a second time!” However, according to the Laws of College, based on no form of rational logic or reasoning, rewriting your eight-page paper after losing the entire thing somehow proves even more difficult than the first time. Eight solid hours later, after incessant and obsessive saving, I finished my paper.
My infallible three-step process, my friends, had been compromised. So of course, I formulated a new, two-step plan at 9 p.m. Thursday night.
Step 1: Stay up a second night to study for the three exams. Try not to act on fantasies involving running away to South Dakota to hide from enraged professors and my own procrastination-induced self-loathing.
Step 2: Don’t let sleepiness convince me that completing Step 1 isn’t mandatory.
Needless to say, I achieved both steps of my plan. Blurry eyed and delirious, I stumbled into my college algebra exam at 7:30 a.m. the next morning. Looking back, I’m not sure how I functioned on zero hours of sleep for 56-hours.
What I do know is that the exam looked like an entirely foreign language. Everything I learned about linear equations flew out of my now near-zombie brain within the course of my finals week fiasco. Without any other choice, I chewed off most of my fingernails, took a stab at the answers between extra-long, sleepy blinks and proceeded to my next two exams.
I bombed every exam I took that day. My saving grace ended up being the poorly re-written paper receiving a satisfactory B+. As I sat at home, cuddling with my puppy on Christmas Eve and smelling the fresh, roasted tomatoes in my mom’s homemade sauce, I told myself I’d never put myself in a situation like the Finals Week of 2012 again.
And yet, every finals week since, I’ve progressively treated my work as if I’d rather die than do it. I write papers the night before, until realizing I could just do them through the night again. I did that until I realized I could actually start them in the early morning on the due date. Put simply, I didn’t learn my lesson. And guess what, fellow students? You probably won’t either.
Remember this finals week that while you’re exercising your unbridled freedom to ignore your work and indulge in more Facebook stalking than ever before, the unavoidable consequences of your self-annihilating behavior are well-deserved. Save your work, and when you inevitably find yourself cramming the night before three final exams to learn a semester’s worth of information, just go to sleep.