My boss sent me an email asking if I would mind covering one of my co-worker's shifts during the time when she has to take some finals. My response, "I remember finals week all too well. I'd cover every one of her shifts if it was a possibility." There's something about finals week for a college student (especially a graduating student) that will absolutely test your soul. Even for the poor-to-mediocre student which is the classification into which I will admittedly place myself. I was not a good student. After my 4th semester, I started to realize that it would be in my best interest to shape up and maybe start going to class but even then I was content with C's. Totally satisfied with B's. If you are a friend/ lover/ co-worker/ family member to anyone who is in the last three weeks of any type of semester, I challenge that it is your duty to be extra kind, attentive and graceful during this time. I can't explain it, but I will try. You might get tired of it. That makes sense, but your kindness will not go overlooked, I assure you. It's easy enough. Just make sure you're following rule number one. Rule Number One is this, simply: don't be an asshole.
It'll test your limits and change you as a person. It will wreck your friendships, your finances, your personal hygiene and possibly even your criminal record. The one time that I back-talked a cop was during Finals Week.
Here's that story: Cindy and Sarah and I were going on a smoke break/ late-night run to Wendy's for spicy chicken sandwiches and frostys because--why doesn't actually matter. Anne Lamott always says that "why" is not a helpful question so I won't attempt to answer it. So we're just minding our own business and driving to Wendy's and I mused kind of lightly, "Oh, I just remembered that one of my headlights is out." Cindy's all, "Oh crap. We're most certainly getting pulled over." And wouldn't you know it. We got pulled over and I suddenly remembered that I wasn't wearing a seat belt so I oh-so-slyly fastened it. And when the cop approached, the first thing he said was, "Ma'am, do you think I'm an idiot?" To which I responded, "It couldn't hurt to hope!" He didn't think I was funny. Or cute. He asked where we were headed and we told him. He asked to see my driver's license. "Wouldn't you know?? I... think I left my wallet back at the dorm." "Well, young lady, how do you expect to pay for your meal at a fast food stand?" (Yeah, he said "fast food stand") Can I mention, right now, that Cindy's in the passenger seat just totally mortified like there's a camera crew behind this guy or something. "I have a ten dollar bill in my pocket... Officer." Cindy's facepalming and muttering, "Oh, Jesus Christ."
"Well, ladies, I see you're from that religious college (God, I loved that parking sticker. It was like a gold-ticket to anywhere in Olathe. Societal misconceptions FTW!). How about you just go on back home and don't stop for french fries tonight." Cindy doesn't want me to talk anymore so she's all, "Thank you officer! We appreciate it."
On the way back to the dorm I mentioned that I was glad that he didn't ask to see my insurance information because it was big time expired. Cindy: "Rolling. Dirty."
For the record, we went back to the dorms and then got into Cindy's car but when we got to Wendy's, they were closed. I was pissed.
After one particularly emotional week before Christmas break, I instituted a zero tolerance policy on hurt feelings for the duration. People are not themselves when they are under such intense pressure. Finals have a way of oppressing you in ways that blanket cover all of your insecurities. As though they were developed to strip a person down to bare bones and see if they could truly survive life in the wilderness. Suddenly you want to please your parents with good grades. You suddenly start to give a crap about your future and remember that you're going to be paying out of the ass for this "education" for as long as you both shall live. You want to please yourself with a job well done. Though you haven't realized it before, it's just come to your consciousness that you're a complete and utter failure and so you look back on 17 wasted weeks and you think, "this is my chance to be somebody!" You vow that next semester will be different. And for the first two weeks it is but then again the first two weeks are pud.
So you already feel like a failure and on top of that you want someone--anyone to feel proud of you. On top of that, each and every class is suddenly requiring 12-page papers and 20 minute presentations and countless pages of reading. And you half-ass your way through all of it because who could reasonably expect anything more? On top of that, your roommate is doing the "are you mad at me?" thing and no matter what you say, she doesn't believe that you're just a little more stressed out than usual. One night in an effort to coax you into talking, she fake-cries through half the night and finally you open up, alright. You snap and spew acid venom at the top bunk for fifteen breathless minutes and then for a second, it's quiet. And then the for-real crying starts and you feel kind of bad for screaming at 5:00 am about her particularly obvious mommy issues and judgemental attitude and complete lack of self-worth and you do recognize the irony but you don't feel too bad because she drove the both of you to this place. And you take a pillow and finish sleeping on the first futon you find.*
On Wednesday of finals week you will notice that your hair has begun to look oily and maybe kind of smell a little less-than-awesome. You dig through that part of your closet into which you never go and find that one non-stocking-cap-hat that you have. By Thursday you realize that you've been wearing the same grey sweatpants and university t-shirt since the last time that you showered. You do the mental math and decide that was probably on Monday. You will also appreciate how your shirt is super good at disguising stains because you totally remember waking up mostly inside of a bag of cheetos that morning and hardly anyone has mentioned it. Or maybe people are noticing but haven't bothered to say anything because, really? On Friday you sell your books back and buy a new pair of sweatpants and a bottle of shampoo. You don't even have to try hard for your friends to make you heavy-laden with compliments. After all of that, the standards--they have been changed. You know each other on a very human level here. All it takes is a single shower and clean teeth for everyone to notice what a beauty you really are.
It sounds horrible, doesn't it? I miss it. I miss the rules and the deadlines and the pressure and the feeling of oneness that you have with everyone. Like you're all on the same sinking ship, shoveling water out of the boat with the palms of your hands. Only it's not really like that because when it comes down to it, you can't save your friends. On Friday afternoon it's all over. Everyone is relieved and no longer afraid. Somehow the ship didn't sink--or maybe it did but you've done all that you can do. So everyone goes out to the lake and sits in the muddy bank and play truth-or-dare and laugh and laugh and laugh until someone says something particularly shocking. Then everyone will go home and feel weird about that one thing that one guy said.
I was hanging out with some people that I did not know the other night--that was fun. But someone said something about a ten-page paper that was due. There were talks of citing sources and bibliography pages that were due. I was getting such a lady boner just hearing about it. I miss it so much. I miss having to use my brain and having hard-copy evidence of something that I'd worked so hard for. In writing this post, I went through the old papers that I wrote just to see the notes that professors had written. This one is my favorite that was written at the end of a Character Analysis Essay that I wrote comparing the Grandmother and the Misfit in O'Connor's A Good Man is Hard to Find.
"Interesting premise, Libby. I'm trying to follow it all. ... I'm not convinced about their common traits. But I'm pliable. I'll give it another read.
[Further down the page]
And if my professor hadn't been so pliable (a not-so-admirable trait in the long run, but who's going to argue?), I wouldn't have gotten that A on this paper in 2004. Not to mention, any fool who's read A Good Man is Hard To Find would totally agree with my thesis. It was such an easy concept that I considered scrapping it entirely. There's zero convincing to be done. For the record.
*That. Happened. And I am ashamed. I'm sorry, Amy.