Remember when you were in high school, and you would buy that huge ass package of mechanical pencils before the first day of school? Like, literally, it was the holy grail of pencils, a rainbow fountain of writing tools. It was glorious. However, slowly, as the year went on each and every mechanical pencil disappeared. By year’s end you were left with nothing but that one inch-long Ticonderoga that you found in the hallway that had the eraser bitten off.
I feel like college is a lot like that. I always start off the semester feeling so goddamn motivated. I check my course syllabi the week before school starts, making sure to to get out and supply myself with everything I’m going to need for the semester well ahead of time. I already have half of my textbooks ordered or already purchased off of my local classified website before the first day. In some cases, like my math class, I already have the first week of homework done before I’ve even my met my professor. However, slowly, as week one turns into week three, and the far off week of finals seems more like a dream than reality, my metaphorical pencils of motivation start to dwindle and disappear.
Soon, I find myself submitting without proofreading and taking online quizzes while I am doing the reading (but, honestly, who doesn’t do this?). By week five two very different, but equally potent, parts of Matthew find themselves in the midst of an all-out war. Perfectionist-Matthew finds himself checking his course calendars every day the moment he arrives to work, just to see what is on his agenda for the next couple of hours. Procrastination-Matthew puts his distortion lens on in front of the clock reassuring himself that watching three episodes of Gilmore Girls instead of writing that reflection on the reading he hasn’t done yet won’t set him back at all.
By week thirteen, with only three weeks until the end of the semester, I find myself pouring over textbooks, creating checklists, and experimenting to see how low a score on assignments I can get and still pass the class. It’s taxing, it’s exhausting, and I can only blame myself for the downward spiral I have fallen into. The reality behind my existential crisis causing my hair to fall out is that it actually isn’t as bad as I am making it out to be. A dirty rotten secret that I don’t like to share with many people I that I actually work better when under pressure. Well . . . either that or I have really spectacular grounds for just giving up. Either way you look at it it’s a win/win.
Speaking specifically of the Fall 2016 semester, I managed to pull two A’s and two A-‘s out of my rear end and I am still not exactly sure how I accomplished it. So if you’ve ever found yourself in a situation similar to what I have described above, this one is for you, for me. To the procrastinators, the under-acheivers who highkey are afraid of failing so they just don’t try at all. Here are a couple of well-kept secrets of mine that help me stay afloat throughout the semester while still indulging the side of myself that wants to curl up into a ball and die.
Coffee: Okay, here is the truth about coffee. It’s never really about the caffeine, it isn’t about the sugar, it isn’t about warming up my frozen heart. To me, it’s about consistency. A lot happens in a semester, a lot of ups, a lot of downs, but one thing I am always able to count on is coffee. No matter what baloney happens I can always spend way too much money of a prissy-fru-fru drink that tastes like a gingerbread house. No one can take that away from me. Having something consistent to lean on is key. Don’t underestimate predictability.
Breaks: You have to, have to leave time for yourself. You will drown without it. No matter what happens you need to close that laptop, get rid of that text book, and take time for yourself. Do whatever you want, go to the gym, watch a movie, take a nap. Whatever your little heart desires most, do it. I have a good friend who tells me she always always stops studying as soon as the little hand hits the ’10’ at night. I think that is such wise advise.
Get out: Maybe it’s just me. But I do homework way better when I am not at home. Something about how comfortable I am in my own house, it just gives me way more excuses to slack off. My POC (place of choice) would have to be any establishment that I can get my hands on some coffee (see above). Beans and Brews, Starbucks, McDonald’s anywhere. Sit me down with a nice cup o’ Joe and I can strap in to do some intensive textbook reading for three hours.
Obsess: This one might sound crazy. But hear me out, okay? If you always know what is due, you can never forget to do it. As I mentioned before I check my course calendars daily, this keeps my priorities at the forefront of my mind. Further, the more I think about my assignments the more I get ideas. Example: I had the idea for my final paper in Sociology in the bathtub last semester, I pulled out my phone and immediately jotted down ideas. I find that if I keep tabs on school and stay aware I don’t fall behind, even if I neglect my responsibilities sometimes.
Sleep: Never ever ever pull an allnighter. I don’t care if you have a huge project due first thing in the morning. Go to bed at midnight and wake up at five and finish it before class. Studies have shown that no sleep is not better than less sleep. No sleep may feel better because your circadian rhythm (body clock) is tricking you into thinking it’s not tired, but you are.
You just need to take care of yourself, and when you can’t do it alone lean on others. I have a really great support system in my best friend Whitney, my boyfriend Brian, and my mom. They all keep me really grounded and level headed when I want to fly off the handle and drop three out of six classes. They are there to remind me that no, this won’t last forever, only two more years. And yes, C’s do indeed get degrees so don’t throw your self off a cliff for bombing that test. I am going to be o-kay.
Which is a really important thing for me to remember since I just got my first political science exam. I’m gonna need to see a therapist after that score.