College nostalgia

So, last night I was asked to work a late shift at work. It began at midnight and I was asked to work until four in the morning! I was okay with this, given that I’ve been a bartender for many years while working my way through college, so I was ready to tackle the challenge. I slept that morning until I absolutely couldn’t sleep anymore, and by nightfall, I had consumed as much coffee as I possibly could. The affects were not what I anticipated, making me more hyper than alert, but nonetheless, I was a warm body on the premise fulfilling a relatively easy task, so my alertness was not as necessary as it usually is.

On the way home, I realized I was a drone on autopilot, going merely through the human motions with minimal human thought, if any at all. I guess it’s safe to assume I’m no longer used to working such late hours, a fact that made me realize I’m not as young and unstoppable as I used to be. But being in that state of mind showered me with nostalgia, bringing me back to my college days, specifically the nights I would have to pull all-nighters in my school’s library. Reflecting on it, I can honestly say I miss the nights of academic perseverance.

It’s certainly not the staying up for 24 hours that I miss, no, but rather it’s everything that went along with an all-nighter that I miss. The day before you know you’re about to embark on an all-nighter, there is no greater feeling then your head resting against your pillow, wrapped up in jammies and a warm blanket. There is no moment to be savored more than that night of sleep. Once that alarm goes off the next morning, you become a soldier. Every second over the next 24 hours counts, and the day becomes a battle against the clock.

While the sun is still up, it’s easy to look at all your research in front of you, all your books in front of you, all your notes in front of you, and everything else, and feel like you have made some sort of progress. Of course, being alert and awake certainly aids in that. But once the sun hits the horizon, that’s when the fun really begins.

Generally, there are a great number of your classmates pulling the same all-nighter as you, so at some point, you will find them wandering into the library as well, and everyone will flock together to commiserate over the next hours to come. Everyone compares notes and progress, feeling insecure the whole time because no matter how hard you have worked on formulating your argument, someone else’s argument will always sound better, and had you have not had the time crunch, you could have formulated something more solid. No point in panicking at that point, though, because you have already committed to your research and there is no time to go back. It’s do or die, and this is battle.

A few hours after the sun hit the horizon, an announcement is made that the coffee shop will be closing soon. Given that it doesn’t open for another ten hours, you make sure you have enough caffeine to make it through. You order two 20 ounce, no make that three, coffees. That should cover you. Oh, and snacks. Did you bring enough snacks, or do you need to buy five over priced bananas from the barista? No time to think, just grab them, and you can contemplate this tomorrow after your paper is safe and sound in the hands of your professor. Plus, when it comes down to it, you have to look out for your fellow peers trudging it through the night with you, so you should make sure there’s food to go around.

And now, time and sanity is slipping from you, like watching sand fall through an hour glass. A couple hours later, you start to realize that you’ve been staring at your computer screen for a seemingly long time. You shake yourself out of it, but now you really have to focus. So, you ask your crew, Is it time to go out for a cigarette? Happy for the opportunity to get away from the assignment, everyone chimes in with a YES, but this is a no going back point. For the rest of the night, you and your crew will step out every half hour to get that jolt, whether it come from the nicotine, the cool night air hitting your face, stretching your legs, or a combination of the three.

A couple more hours later, someone in your group has declared that they have finished the assignment and are going home to sleep for a few hours. Jealousy and abandonment immediately set in, but no time to dwell on that, because you’re still only half way done with the assignment?! You could have sworn you typed more than that, and the assignment is due in… Holy crud, four hours!! Okay, time to write in super speed. Put down all your arguments and your supporting evidence on paper, you can give yourself time to work out the grammar and organization once it’s all written down. You can do this, you’ve done all the readings and assignments all semester, there’s no way you can mess this up.

Typing, typing, typing… You’re typing at super speed when it suddenly occurs to you that you have no idea what you just wrote. Saint George, of whom the peasants revered highly, had gone to the place in which a battle with the Visigoths had happened, rendering it holy because the sword of Saint Anthony had been laid to rest after killing King Paul II who oppressed the masses because of greed and corruption. Okay, so you just wrote a run-on sentence and now you can’t remember your argument or why this is what you thought was supporting evidence. No time, just go with it and you can address that later. Fluff and run-on sentences far surpass no content at this point.

Suddenly you have put down the absolute last sentence, feeling proud, but the battle isn’t over yet. Now you have to edit it, but no worries, you have time for that. You look at the clock. No you don’t, you have thirty minutes. So, you scan your twelve pages at top speed, add a comma here, break this paragraph there, beef up this sentence. Time to face the moment of truth and the moment of no return. The print button must be pressed.

Gathering your things, you and your crew all have the same faces of worn out dissatisfaction, debating whether or not you would have preferred a midterm or if an assignment was better. Everyone has that pale faced dark eyed look, hair tussled, feeling not particularly comfortable wearing the same clothes over the course of the last 24 hours. But, you gather your paper, put all the pages in order, staple it, and make your way across campus to your professor’s office. When you first step foot outside and the light hits your face, you feel like some sort of cave creature coming out of hiding after a very long time. It’s all okay, though, because after the short five minute walk across campus, you will be free. You half proudly hand your paper over, your professor marveling at how terrible you look, praising your dedication to remain awake all night, politely telling you how much they look forward to reading the content. At that point, it doesn’t even matter, because you woke up a soldier and you have won the battle.

To be nostalgic about this might seem like nonsense after all the craziness I put myself through, but there is no better feeling of accomplishment and pride than embarking on a great challenge and succeeding. Not only is there the pure satisfaction of success, but I have never been more supported by my peers than on those nights as we were all put to the test. I remember those nights fondly, focusing more on the long term rewards rather than the momentary discomfort, laughing always at the rituals of an all-nighter.

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