[Charlotte Mullin| Contributor]
In the afterglow of the Christmas holidays, coming back to university is a little bit like being slapped awake. Suddenly your life has order again. 9 o’clock lectures and weekly reading requirements are a shock to your system, but it gets worse: January signals Semester A exams and final assignments. The entire student body becomes unhinged as everyone’s lives descend into sheer chaos. While everybody studies differently, to varying degrees we all experience waves of emotion which are not unlike the five stages of grief. The abrupt jumps between these stages can be intense and confusing, so here are some handy-dandy signposts to guide you through your emotional catastrophe
Upon checking Studynet and discovering your assignment deadline/exam date, there’s a momentary spasm of panic before you immediately swat it away like a fly. ‘A month is an aeon away,’ you tell yourself, ‘I have more than enough time. I’ll get back to it later.’ What are you supposed to do, neglect your Netflix responsibilities? How can you be expected to work when you haven’t finished American Horror Story or Breaking Bad? If you just don’t think about your deadlines, then they don’t really exist. As long as you can keep up an emotional buffer and ignore the inevitable until absolutely necessary, everything will be fine – or you convince yourself.
The transformation between denial and anger is the fastest of them all. You come to realise that your deadline is getting closer much in the same way an antelope approaches the watering hole – cautiously, tentatively, toeing around to see if things are alright. And then you get mauled by a lion. After being ignored for so long, your obligations burst over you like a dam exploding, and you become soaked with the cold harshness of reality. ‘Well, gosh diddly darn it, I sure am in a pickle,’ you think, only with much more explicit terminology. At first, the anger will be directed at anyone but yourself: your lecturers for setting you so much work, your housemates for distracting you, your mother for having birthed you into this miserable existence, and so on. But eventually you begin to collapse in on yourself like a dying star. You are an idiot. You are the biggest blubbering idiot to ever inhale oxygen. You hate yourself.
Surrounded by unread journal articles, word documents full of gibberish and indecipherable notes, you have lost all sense of dignity and would do anything to be out of this mess. Anything. Perhaps you plea to every omniscient deity you can think of, offering to solve world hunger or invent a new energy source or reach some other kind of unrealistic target in exchange for making progress. You are fully prepared to make some sort of sacrifice just to boost your word count. Or maybe you become lost in a labyrinth of ‘what if’s and ‘if only’s. In a desperate attempt to regain control, you imagine scenarios where everything went smoothly. If only you had started sooner. If only you had gone to that lecture. Unfortunately, by now you have become acutely aware of the fact that ignoring reality is generally not a good thing. Oh well, it was nice pretending for a bit.
Easily the most soul-destroying stage, as the weeks go on your spirit is crushed and you turn into a husk of the person you once were. Everyone eyes you warily as days of chugging Red Bull and pulling all-nighters in the LRC have morphed you into the physical embodiment of exhaustion. By now, your deadline dates have become stamped on your retinas, and you’re constantly plagued by them. They gnaw away at your brain like some sort of horrible virus, prohibiting you from doing anything that isn’t work without being consumed by guilt. WHY ARE YOU MAKING FOOD INSTEAD OF MAKING NOTES? WHY ARE YOU SHOWERING INSTEAD OF SLOUCHING AT A COMPUTER? NUTRITION AND PERSONAL HYGIENE ARE INCONSEQUENTIAL! Sadly, even when you are studying you can still feel your mind rotting. Every word you write and read becomes jumbled. Nothing makes sense. Everything loses its meaning. Is anything even real anymore? Are you real? Who knows. Your brain is white noise now. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
After what feels like an eternity, you come to the realisation that the only way to get through this is to face it head-on. There’s no cheat code. Exams and assignments cannot be bribed, bullied or reasoned with, and so you pick up the remnants of your shattered being and painfully piece them back together. This is the Rocky montage of stages. ‘Eye of the Tiger’ becomes the soundtrack to your life. As the final date looms closer, you will occasionally become overwhelmed and possibly even relapse into previous stages; this is only temporary. You have gotten through this before, and you will do it again. Consistent work is grueling and usually mind-numbingly boring. Slowly but surely, however, you watch your progress accumulate, until finally you reach your word limit or you feel like you could write an essay with your hands tied. Hitting ‘submit’ on Studynet and coming out of the exam room will completely purge you of all the horrors of the past few weeks. Well done! Now enjoy yourself until your next deadline, when this harrowing process will start all over again.