Bring on the pain: The end of the school year

In the busy Learning Commons at Ohio University, I currently have a front-row seat to the craziness of the last week of the quarter.  Students have that glazed-over look, their hands hurt from typing too much, their eyes hurt from reading too much, and their bellies likely hurt from drinking too much Red Bull.  They all are complaining like it’s the hardest thing they have ever been through.  I sort of miss that experience just a bit.

I guess I’m sort of a masochist when it comes to things like this.  As a Boy Scout, I did a lot of back packing and hiking.  The primary thrill for me was not the beautiful scenery or getting close to nature, it was how many miles I did in a day, how fast I hiked, and how many feet we climbed.  Now, as a cyclist, I really enjoy going for long bike rides, and I really love riding up hills.  Am I psycho?  Perhaps I am just a bit, but the thing about enduring pain through riding/hiking is that once you got to your final destination, you could truly say that you accomplished something.  While sometimes the experiences themselves may not bring the utmost joy at the time (sometimes the hills around hear will make you cuss a lot), it is awesome once you get to the top of the hill, only to look back and say “I rode up that.”

I have some not-so-fond memories of the many times I procrastinated, much like most of these students around me are doing now.  I know I could have learned a lot more if I had spread the papers and studying out over a longer period of time, rather than cramming at the last minute. I realize that I probably sold my self  short a bit with my education, as some of the ideas in my papers may not have been fleshed-out as they could have been.  I know I probably could have slept more, stressed less, and drank fewer gallons of Dr. Pepper.  The experiences of finals week still give me nightmares, as I sometimes dream that I have to take a final for a class that I never went to because I forgot to drop the class.

Psycho dreams aside, my fondest memories of college and grad school are the moments after finishing the last final and turning in the final paper.  At the moment the semester ended for me, the weight of the world was off my shoulders (or at least for a few days until my grades came in the mail).  The end of the year usually involved packing up the car and driving back home, usually with 10 bucks in my checking account and a 1/2 tank of gas.  The immediacy of the break from school was an awesome feeling. Students may complain how hard things are right now for them, but I’d encourage them to cherish these moments (pain and all).  It’s been my experience that this “end of semester” experience can’t be replicated after graduation, as my job doesn’t end each year in June.  My summers are nice, don’t get me wrong, but I miss the thrill of driving home to Mom, music cranked loud, knowing that the fate of my final-week’s efforts now rested in the hands of my professors.  I miss the coming down from last night’s Dr. Pepper high, and miss the buzz knowing that my summer was just beginning.  I think Jordan Shirk, one of our students, sums this up nicely with this tweet:

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Here’s to you students.  Enjoy this moment while you can, and have a great summer!