October is a month of shifting expectations. Midterms always seem to come weeks before you’re ready for them, the PFD gives you just enough money to make you spend recklessly and that “easy” class you’ve been ditching since week two has suddenly become an insurmountable challenge.
To put it simply, October always seems to be the month that convinces me to get my life in order and kick into high gear on the academic side of things. For me that involves budgeting my time, which is really just a fancy way of saying I’m going to spend less time on Reddit and Netflix and maybe (occasionally) show up for statistics.
At least that used to be enough to hold back the approaching torrential downpour of research, essays and presentation. This semester however, that strategy barely carves out enough time for me to reset the formatting on Microsoft Word — which, for reasons unknown, always decides to format my papers in a manner unrecognizable by anyone on the planet.
In the past I only tended to have one or two midterms that were worth a significant portion of my grade. This allowed me to continue life as usual as long as I pulled an all-nighter or two. Not this year.
This year every single one of my exams is worth 40-50 percent of my grade, and in one case it will literally be my first graded assignment. There’s no room for error this semester. This is survival of the fittest — or survival of the moderately productive — and I’ve got to get my priorities in order.
My aspirations of teaching myself to kite-snowboard have been put on hold, my groceries ran out a week ago and my newfound addiction to “Breaking Bad” has fallen by the wayside as the midterm beast consumes everything in its path. Even my positive ambitions — like occasionally exercising and eating food that doesn’t come from a can — have completely dropped off my radar as my life becomes one giant research project.
Midterms have this inexplicable ability to absorb all available free time and shift the focus away from anything else that could possibly be deemed important. I mean honestly, we’re in the middle of a government shutdown, my car has a fuel leak and a severe over-heating problem (not a great combination), and the “Walking Dead” premiere is only a few weeks away. Yet somehow all of that becomes background noise as I devote my full attention to an eight-page exam on healthcare economics.
Even this column serves as an example to the immense power of midterms. I started three days ago with a clear plan to mock the congressional deadlock by facetiously displaying my ignorance of national politics. That idea was then relegated to a tiny footnote in the previous paragraph as all my attention became focused upon keeping my GPA afloat until the end of the year. I don’t know about you, but when my academic responsibilities begin to impede my ability to be sarcastic and critical, it’s a sign of a significant problem.
I won’t lie to you. This is absolutely an uphill battle. I sat down fully intending to complete an experimental proposal. Yet three hours later I’ve found a new Pandora station and am researching climbing gear I couldn’t possibly afford. My room looks like a tornado hit the Library of Congress and a half finished fort made solely of economic textbooks surrounding my computer has emerged overnight.
So this is what it comes down to. After avoiding anything resembling self-motivation for upwards of 20 years, I finally have to make a conscious decision to work instead of doing literally anything else.
Believe me, it won’t be hard to figure out if I was able get my act together in time. If these columns keep printing as usual, then it’s safe to assume I survived. However, if I drop off the face of the earth, then it’s definitely a good time to send a search party. There’s a better than average chance that I’ll be huddled around a pile of burning textbooks and syllabi, reminiscing about the days when my GPA was above the three-point mark.
I normally try to end these columns on a positive note, so enjoy this little one I scraped from the bottom of the optimism barrel — worst case scenario we can all huddle around that textbook fire together. And maybe, just maybe, a few of us will survive the exams and emerge stronger and prepared for finals.
You’ll have to let me know how that goes.