- Begin the semester full of hope and purpose. You are well rested from the holiday, you were beginning to get antsy anyway—staying home all day doing nothing is lovely but even that can get exhausting. Plus when you’re home your mother delights in waking you up way too early (8:30 am) with a list of chores. Purpose to attend all your classes; you are aware that there is a correlation between class attendance and academic performance…or you are aware that your lecturers make a point of saying that each semester, so just in case they are actually on to something, you will give it a shot. Make up your mind to make school a priority and to begin doing your assignments and term papers and group projects as soon as possible so as to avoid that abundance of stress and anxiety towards the end of the semester when all of them are due. Bask in the glorious feeling of almost having your life together.
- On the morning of your first class, hear your alarm just before it turns itself off and leaves you with a notification saying ‘missed alarm’. Turn it off and stare at the ceiling through half-opened eyes and feel a blackness begin to enter your soul. Sigh. Remember how you used to feel when you were in high school and were supposed to wake up at 5 am, when the world was still dark and evil spirits were still roaming the land, probably waiting to enter your deputy principal. Sigh again. Turn in your bed to get a view of the outside world, so as to gauge whether the day has really begun. Observe that there is barely any sunshine and that it looks cold. Make the executive decision that the day has not yet began and give the sun ten more minutes to properly rise. Forget that you had not snoozed your alarm. Be woken up by blazing sunshine and your mother’s footsteps on the stairs. Your phone says it is 9:48 am; your class was for 8. When she comes in, tell your mother that classes have not yet began, and wince as she begins to tell you what needs to cleaned and what she wants to find cooked when she comes back in the evening. Turn on your side when she leaves, annoyed and resigned, wondering why she couldn’t get a normal job that requires her to be in the office by 8 am, and consoling yourself that the lecturer probably didn’t go to class either. After all, it’s just the first week. Wake up two hours later and spend the rest of the day on YouTube.
- It is now the second week of school and you have gained a little momentum. You attended some classes last week, skipped some, but your motivation level is still pretty high. You still believe that that 3.8 GPA is definitely coming through, never mind last semester’s 3.0. Attend all classes, resolve to pay attention. Before every class begins, put away your phone, even remembering to put it on silent. Take notes, nod as the lecturer is speaking to show your thirst for knowledge. Consider going to talk to the lecturer after class, you know, to strike a rapport with him/her like your father has been chanting since your first semester in university. Reconsider, reminding yourself that you ain’t about that life. You may be a remarkable student but not that remarkable. Begin to fidget towards the end of class; wonder whether the lecturer has gone beyond time—why is it taking so long? Take your phone out of your bag; you’re just checking the time so it’s allowed. Gasp a bit too loudly upon reading the time because only half an hour has passed and you are not even halfway through the class. Fidget more aggressively. Since you’ve already taken out your phone anyway, decide to quickly check the four texts that have come in. Two are from useless groups that you keep saying you will leave, two from your friends. They are just two texts so why not reply? Lose track of time because the conversations got interesting and only remember that you are in class when you hear people shuffling around you and desks screeching as they are dragged across the floor. Realize that the lecturer so graciously decided that group work was the best way to move ahead in this class. Curse his/her name to the winds. Find a group and plaster on your face the most friendly-looking facial expression you have so as to avoid looking like the utterly disinterested and dangerously hungry person you are. Finish the discussion as quickly as you can and get back to your phone. Your group members are all doing the same thing anyway. Leave class as soon as the lecturer opens his/her mouth to say that you can leave.
- By the fifth week, realize that you are about done with the semester. Arrive late for almost all your classes. Only make an effort to go on time when you have one of those lecturers who think you have nothing else to do but show up for their class. The nerve of some of these guys. Study hurriedly and not at all efficiently for the CAT you had forgotten you were going to have this week. Do the CAT and when you are done, be sure to congregate with your classmates outside to discuss just how badly you screwed up. Most classmates are always good for this and will encourage you in this your academic mediocrity support group. If you find someone who says that the CAT wasn’t actually that bad, who implies that they have probably done well in the CAT, be sure to make all manner of sounds suggesting that the person is untouchable, but make it sound more mocking than kind. Remember that you are here to support confusion, panic and resignation, not encourage people to academic greatness. Phrases such as ‘Eh, sawa chop!’ and ‘Si we’re sorry!’ are acceptable when interacting with this self-assured, high-achieving student. After the after-CAT discussions, walk away with a feeling of failure weighing down on you, and the fear that none of your dreams will materialize because of your poor study habits and procrastination. Vow to make up for it in the next CAT or exam or assignment. Brush the feeling aside, telling yourself that employers don’t look at transcripts anymore, that they want employable skills. Wonder if you have any. Contemplate self-employment.
- Continue to ardently and admirably procrastinate the starting of the term papers and group assignments you had purposed to complete on time. Tell yourself everyday that you still have time. Well, not every day because you have more pressing things to think about than some term paper that might not even be read. You heard that some lecturers choose ten papers to actually read and grade; the rest of you, your results are left to fate. Whatever short assignments you had been given, do them the night before they are due. Text your classmates to confirm that the assignment is actually due tomorrow. Feel your heart rate increase as you are told that it was actually due two days ago on soft copy. Think up excuses that you can give the lecturer. Seek solidarity with classmates who also have not handed in the assignment. Feel bad about yourself and your inability to keep on top of your school work. Think about businesses that you can start, now that it is clear you might not be employable after all. Na vile the market for the degree course you are doing is already flooded. Remember how broke you are. Wonder where all your money has been going. Remember that you didn’t really have that much to begin with. Remember that there are 17 year olds in the world who are millionaires, and yet here you are. Remember how you used to think you would own your first car by 23. Laugh bitterly. Listen to the sound of existential dread ringing in your ears. Consider whether dropping out of school is a possibility at this point in your life. Envision yourself as being poor or average for the rest of your life. Feel the anxiety setting in. Google how much money strippers make. Three hours later, find yourself on YouTube watching bloopers from the last Marvel movie. Go to bed at 3 am wondering how on earth you thought that this was the semester when you were going to normalize your sleep pattern and achieve balance in your life. Take on an attitude of ‘Whatever, man. It is what it is.’
- Repeat 5 above until a week before final exams.
- Life is hazy, so many things are happening. You are not sure what day it is; you have been studying for exams and rushing to finish the term papers that are due in two days and that you only began yesterday. Group members screwed you over last week and you did almost everything by yourself. You have been running on caffeine and junk food. You are tired. Stumble and struggle through exams, look forward to closing school with everything that is within you.
- You are done. Refuse to think about anything academic. Plan to watch series and movies and stay on the internet until your brain goes numb. Dedicate a significant amount of time to complaining about being broke, dreaming about your future, lobbying against the education system, and eating whatever you find because food is a religion with this generation. Generate dreams that have nothing to do with your GPA or transcripts, remind yourself that your mind cannot be caged by a grading system. Plan to do it all over again next semester.