Don’t Try This at Home, Kids

Do you ever hear someone tell a story, and as they progress through it, you can only think, “Man, I’m glad that wasn’t me.” (followed by “I shouldn’t be thinking that!”) Well, here’s a free pass to think that all you want. You’ll be thinking that as I tell you about this last week, but worry not, friends. I’m still alive and quite chipper indeed. All I ask is that you learn from my mistakes, okay?

The root of the problem is that I am done, d-o-n-e, with classes this semester. I mean that figuratively, of course; this last week was actually the peak of academic activity. Read: every teacher wants to cram in the last tests and papers before dead week and finals. The problem is that I spent four days away from school and transitioned myself right into holiday mode quite nicely, thank you very much. I had no intentions of coming out of it, but out of it I was called. I came kicking and screaming.

The “I’ll do that later”  became “must do this now” Sunday, when I decided to get cracking on a big story I had due for advanced journalism and also a project for editing. The story was due on Wednesday; I’d not interviewed a single person or penned a single word. (In my defense, it had been assigned 14 days earlier, and 8 of those were holiday days and/or weekend days. Good defense, right, Mom?) The skies on Sunday were calling for rain.

Foreshadowing, I tell you. But let me stop right here and tell you that I’m not telling you these things because they are bad. It wasn’t a bad week; long, sure. Exhausting, most definitely. Interesting, yes. But also amusing. That’s why I’m passing it along.

Monday is always lengthy; what set this one apart was the constant drizzle of chilly rain that left everyone with cold feet and shivering spirits. Still, we rustled up some oomph and kept smiling, because rain is just rain. And then along came Tuesday, bringing bucketfuls of the same stuff. On this day, I really started to bang out some productivity: two interviews, editing, Poe’s Ligeia, and so forth. Here’s where I should point out that I missed my 9:30 class because of interview for that advanced newswriting story. It seemed innocent enough. Productivity cancels unproductivity out, right?

Longish-story-that-shouldn’t-be-that-long-shorterish, I spent the evening at the library pounding out thousands of words collected during those interviews. And when I say the evening, I mean the evening + the early morning. C’mon, we’ve all done it. One minute it’s 6:37 p.m. and you’ve got loads of time, and the next, it’s so late nobody’s posting Facebook statuses anymore. Not that you’re on Facebook. You’ve got work to do, after all.

I consoled myself with the idea that I could sleep Wednesday night. That’s how I got through Wednesday, during which I spent the morning slamming out a project for 2.5 hours and the afternoon running around work to get the final edits of the magazine in tip-top shape for the printer. As the only assistant, there was many a photo size to be checked and PDF to be made. Wednesday evening, I ate a bowl of cereal and took a two-hour nap. It was the nap that both did me in and saved me.

After I woke up for a snack, I decided I was really refreshed, so I spent a couple of hours making Gracie laugh through her laments of her imminent all-nighter. I tried to go back to sleep near midnight, but that nap kept rearing it’s head and I only dozed for a few minutes, during which I dreamed that I had a test in my 9:30 a.m. class. I awoke feeling rather alarmed, because these aren’t the sort of tests one saunters into and aces, if you know what I’m saying. I surprised Gracie by emerging at 1:30 to “check my planner just in case.” And in my planner, in the 9:30 spot on Thursday, December 1, 2011, was written, “Test 4.” And my heart sank.

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I stood frozen in my room for a good 3.2 minutes. Should I go to sleep and wing it? Pull an all-nighter? Cram as much studying as I could into a couple of hours and sleep the rest of the time?

Based on the adrenaline of the situation, I chose to join Gracie in the living room for my first all-nighter. We cracked the books and the jokes and honestly, it wasn’t the worst thing ever. There was hot chocolate and giggles and Joanna joined us. The later it got, the funnier we seemed. You haven’t laughed until you’ve heard your roommates rap about baked goods at 4:30 a.m. There’s some kind of magic that happens late at night. But alas, the hours escape at an increased pace the closer one nears to morning; nobody was feeling ready for Thursday’s challenges. Our humor fled with the dawn and we lost our steam. Things got blurry. Naps were necessary. They just were.

I took the test having slept five of the previous 48 hours. The words swam, and I doubted I’d absorbed any of that studying. And no, I did not ace that guy. But I did figure out some stuff about life.

Namely, the Lord is good. The Lord is good, and the Lord cares about whether you remember your tests or not.

I learned that a test is a test; a test is just a test. Don’t think I’m telling you schoolwork isn’t important or that you shouldn’t try to be an exceptional student. I’m just saying sometimes, you fail, whatever failing may mean for you. Sometimes, you forget. Sometimes, you’re overwhelmed and you get everything done but one thing falls through the cracks. Sometimes it’s a test. But either way, it’s just a test. There will be more tests to ace. More weeks to plow through. More balls to juggle. And you’ll be better equipped to keep them in the air.

I learned you can’t be exceptional all of the time, see. You have to admit you’re human. You must understand you’re weak. You must come out and announce you have a test in eight hours, hours which you should be sleeping, and you must learn how to laugh. This is crucial, people.

As you might imagine, I spent some of Thursday—a rather full Thursday—wishing I’d remembered. But it didn’t change one thing; I never got to jump back to Sunday and check my planner. Not one single time. It did occur to me all of the ways that it could have been worse (We had a test today?), and I got to be thankful for that all the day long.

Not my finest moment, now was it? Yeah, I know. But bad decisions make good stories, right?

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