To everyone going through finals or some other trying time:
I need you to do me a favor. If this was a presentation, I’d ask you to close your eyes and think with me, but since you need to keep reading for further instructions, I suppose you can keep your eyes open. This is a generic letter to anyone in the process of obtaining a degree of any kind. It is possible that you are nearing the end of your semester or even getting close to the diploma. So hear me out:
Remember last finals period? Remember how the week before you were scrambling to get things done? Remember not washing your hair for three days and wearing the same hoodie to every class? Remember eating pizza for breakfast, lunch, and dinner one day and then eating nothing but Poptarts the next? Remember thinking how unjust it was that you had a test the week before your Finals? Remember how many papers and projects were due? Remember thinking there was no way you were going to make it through? Remember how completely stressed out and overwhelmed you were?
I don’t. I don’t remember any of that. The only reason I was able to type up a paragraph that might seem even slightly applicable to your life at the moment was because anyone can buy into the hype of Finals week. Anyone can make listed articles describing Finals week through pictures of puppies or (insert favorite television show) memes. I’m not at all trying to negate how taxing the last few weeks of classes can be.
But honestly, do you really remember them?
Remember last finals period? Remember how you got everything done? Remember taking a long shower to cool your head in between study sessions? Remember working with friends in the library over big group projects and instantly feeling bonded to everyone who was right there on the front lines with you? Remember going to that final banquet or party for your organization and enjoying a free dinner? Remember going for a walk with a friend because on Tuesday you didn’t have any Finals? Remember having a movie night to procrastinate? Remember returning to your seat, knowing that you rocked your presentation? Remember thinking how proud you were that you made it through? Remember feeling completely overwhelmed with happiness when you finished your last assignment?
That is what I remember. When I reflect back, the stress and worry is never the first memory that comes to mind…quite the opposite actually. I think of lunch dates with my friends and late night talks that pushed studying back just a few more hours. I don’t, and I’m willing to believe that many of you would agree, think of the bad of last finals week. I remember the goodness that came from it—the little memories I took from getting to be around the people I loved, even if that came in the form of an all-nighter paper writing session.
Now just one more time, think with me for a moment.
Remember the first time you left college for an extended break? Remember slowing tearing apart your room, pulling down posters and marveling at how much dust formed underneath the unmoved furniture? Remember unplugging your lamp and unmaking your bed? Remember how lonely everything looked as a blank, impersonal replica of a place you used to call home? Remember sitting on the edge of a scratchy blue cot watching your roommate sling her backpack over her shoulders and leave Room 202 for the last time? Remember turning off the light and turning in your key and knowing that you were leaving that place, even if only for a while? Remember how it felt to be overwhelmed with sadness to be leaving a place you had cursed two weeks before?
I know Finals Week is tough. I know the week before is sometimes tougher. But I know that you are the toughest. Because, as they say, this ain’t your first rodeo. At some point in your educational career, you’ve experienced a really hard week filled with papers, tests, and presentations on top of work, sleep, and every other obligation that fills your time.
But. At some point in your educational career, that week ended.
And when it ended, you didn’t think, boy I wish I had spent more time crying over that accounting exam.
No, rather you think, I suppose that paper wasn’t such a big deal after all. I wish I hadn’t skipped out on that movie night.
I know you might be a little overwhelmed, but believe me when I say that this too shall pass. Don’t buy into the hype. You may have a lot going on, but realistically when has any of this had an ounce of sway on your future success? Does a final presentation in a course really determine how the rest of your collegiate career will play out? Does it decide your future? Of course not. It’s 10 minutes in front of your peers. You will be okay.
I know popular social media is insisting that this be the end of the world, but hang in there. You are more ahead than you think. And you are going to be just fine.