Finals stress; reflections of a weary senior

The last two weeks are always a chaotic mess for me. Even when the rest of the semester has run smoothly and fallen into a comfortable rhythm, those final couple days seem to spontaneously unravel in an instant once I actually look at a calendar and see that I’m out of time once again.

It’s always the same pattern, too: beginning with intense stress and lack of sleep, supplemented by artificial alertness gained from running Red Bull through my coffee maker in lieu of water.  Then a spectacularly mediocre performance on my finals before finally enduring the post finals mania as my brain struggles to comprehend the sudden lack of stress.

I vaguely remember the end of my first semester at UAA. My last final was some sort of math course I’ve long since forgotten, though I distinctly remember oversleeping and misplacing my car keys, requiring me to sprint to class half dressed through knee-deep snow. I arrived 40 minutes late, hair pointing in every direction, wearing mismatched shoes and my roommate’s too-small pants, and just helplessly gestured at professor holding the stack of tests. Once the final ended, I’m pretty sure I went on autopilot, wandered slowly back to the residence halls and promptly fell asleep on my living room floor. Rather than a fluke, this was more than representative of what was to come over the next four years.

In my freshman year, sleep deprived from finals, riding the high of completing another semester and disgruntled by what we considered to be unnecessary fees, me and my roommates used our remaining meal plans to purchase Subway for everyone in the Student Union as an act of protest. Still laboring under the mental strain of our first college experience, we hid nearly a pound of cheese throughout the van of the fourth roommate as vengeance for his passive aggressive behavior during the year. My other roommates deny knowledge of this and claim that the cheese was entirely my idea, but that’s not how I choose to tell the story.

My sophomore year I distinctly remember cooking all my food — in part to host a feast and in part because I didn’t want to pack it home — stuffing all my belongings into a truck and leaving on a weeklong kayaking trip in Homer through the university outdoor recreation program. This was by far the best way to end a semester, until I returned and noticed that while I had been camping in a yurt and capsizing in rough seas, the rest of the world had wondered why I hadn’t been returning their calls. I returned home to a full inbox, a full voicemail and a truck that smelled exactly how you would imagine a week’s worth of my possessions cooking in the sun.

Junior year went perfectly up until the last week when hundreds of dollars of water quality assessment equipment was stolen during my final field assignment for a biology course. Halfway through sampling a an area of Chester Creek that ran orange with polluted sediment and contained more than one submerged shopping cart, we turned around to realize that someone had followed us into the wood and stolen our crate full of gear, presumably hoping to make meth. In addition to losing our logbook — which accounted for most of our grade — we also lost notes and study guides for all our other classes.

By the time finals had passed that semester, I threw everything I owned into badly battered boxes that were never again opened and called it a day. When that summer began the next day, I found myself sipping coffee in Kaladis, feverishly searching for a summer job and accompanied by an Aloe vera plant that seems to have walked off from some far-flung region of campus and tucked itself in my luggage.

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If the first three years were any indication, I should be frantically running around trying in vain to finish strong before the summer. Yet somehow, it feels like any other week filled with minor due dates and reasonable deadlines.

Maybe college finally broke me, or perhaps my apathy has finally overwhelmed my motivation. But I like to think that after four years of academic stress my brain has finally just learned to filer it out as meaningless noise.

Capstone due in a week? No problem, I’ll just slam some coffee and hammer through it. Move out is tomorrow? Well I guess I’ll start packing tomorrow morning. My laptop lost my entire draft of an econ paper? Oh well, I wasn’t overly happy with that draft anyway.

By the end of your senior year, those stressors that seemed so important as a freshman become laughable as more important issues take the forefront. Employment, summer plans, what you’re eating for dinner — suddenly everything becomes more important that college stress as a senior. So I’ll finish those last few assignments and calmly dive into summer break without incident for once. After four years of insanity and finals, I think I’ve earned it.