One hour and forty-five minutes. 150 points. Six questions. My last exam.
I’ve been nonstop studying for six days; my online calculus study plan says I’ve done 10 hours of practice problems, my bone-deep exhaustion tells me I’ve done almost equal that of physics. I’ve blown through 150 notecards, typed two full help sheets–full on both sides with 8 point font. I’ve studied in the Ohio House of Science study room, in my bed, at my desk, in the 18
th Avenue library, in the basement, 10 th floor study room, and 13 th floor of Taylor Tower.
One hour. Forty-five minutes. 150 points. Six questions.
My last exam.
This semester has been tough for me. My struggle is not exactly new, nor is it original. Classes grew less forgiving despite my history of rigorous courses. Expectations shifted drastically. Everything sharpened with the perspective of “you
chose this as your major, you’re choosing this, this is what you want.” A queen bed and a walk-in closet turned into half a shoe-box shared with three others. I lost touch with almost all of my old friends and quietly resented my new ones because I never had any privacy, and, as my mom says, I need my ‘cave time’ and I need it alone.
In a text message to my best friend, I told her, “I feel like I’m not as motivated as I was in high school. I feel like I’m wasting my time and I don’t know what to do.” Sometimes I would sit in class and think of all the things I could be learning about other than integrals/heat engines/C++ structs.
Like classic literature. Like revisionist history. Environmental studies. Foreign films. All of it: academic, intellectual,
knowledge, in all shapes, and platforms, given by impassioned scholars.
Something clicked in the precious last few days of classes. I was right. I
don’t know what I’m doing. Not at all. I’m laughably incompetent when it comes to my own self-awareness, but I’ve also never been told from anyone, ever that life is going to be easy. Maybe this struggle is meant to teach me something, even if the lesson is, “your existential crises is cliché and normal and wholly, importantly, wonderfully your own.”
I took my last exam in one hour, forty-five minutes. I answered six questions and 150 points worth of thermodynamics, waves, and mechanics.
I walked out of Smith Labs one semester older to a campus blanketed with snow. Fat flakes were blurring out the world, making it white cold and beautiful. My last exam and the ones before that, even the midterms and quizzes and homework assignments, were not always easy or fun. But I did them. I passed them. I finished them.
And, if I say that walking out of my exam into the beautiful unknown is some sort of metaphor for the future?
Well, I’m a teenager. I’m allowed to be dramatic.
“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” –Isaac Newton