By Amanda Seed
October – the air is crisp, the leaves are changing colour, and midterms have arrived. It’s a busy time of year: everything seems due at once and you have no time to stop and take a breath. It’s a time when you look forward to Reading Week and make all these great plans for seeing friends and getting caught up on readings and writing papers and presentations and studying for quizzes, tests, midterms… and then actually spend most of it curled up in a blanket watching a movie or doing something equally unproductive. Now, don’t be too hard on yourself; if you’re like me, this so-called unproductivity is good for mental health. Everybody needs a break now and then.
However, I found myself getting lazy even before Reading Week arrived. I’ve noticed stress hits me in one of two ways: panic attacks combined with late nights spent studying because I can’t sleep, or an absolute avoidance of my responsibilities. Neither is good, but somehow, either way I end up getting everything done on time. Weird, right?
This time around I’ve been avoiding school. I’m still doing school work, but I dread it and make up all kinds of excuses to myself so I can do ANYTHING but what I actually need to get done. I combat this with many, many “To Do” lists and self-imposed deadlines etc.etc.etc. It works…to an extent.
The one class I’m managing to stay on top of this semester is my MA course in 18th Century Transatlantic Literature. It’s my favourite course this semester; although, it doesn’t have much competition as I’m only taking two lit classes right now. The class definitely stresses me out. It’s a higher-level course than I’ve ever taken; I have to read a novel and write a paper every week, and I have to participate in discussions every class, yet, I actually look forward to it. While this may not seem weird to most of you, I must add, it is at 8:30 am, so this level of enjoyment is shocking. I might feel like crying when I wake up at 6:30 to a pitch-black room because the sun still hasn’t come up, but once I get to class I love the small-group dynamic. I love hearing my peers’ opinions and having a class based around discussion instead of lecture style (which often makes me sleepy). In my opinion, if you have the chance to take small seminars that focus on discussion, DO IT. It is so worth it.
Now, despite enjoying at least one out of five classes every week (admittedly, some weeks I enjoy more than just the one), I’m still a huge ball of stress. Yes, midterms and papers have got me down, but this whole upcoming-Master’s-deadline stuff is FREAKING ME OUT. Let me ask you, when do I have the time for this? Yes, I really want to apply to OGS and SSHRC and I really want to make the best application that I can, but right now I have about 0.0001% brain space to spend on these applications. So, what do I do? Shove it off to Reading Week…along with preparing three presentations, two papers, an assignment, studying for a midterm and a quiz, and reading three books. In seven days? I don’t think so. Not to mention, like many others, my part-time job doesn’t just stop. So again, I wonder, when do I have the time? The other thing is, these applications are just for grants for my MA, what about applying to the actual MA!? I’ve tried to figure out the things I need for the online application, but, personally, “online” is not my best friend.
What I’m getting at is October is hard and many of us get hysterical… and by ‘many of us’, I mean me. In a perfect world we would only have to take courses that we wanted to, we would have a surplus of time to finish assignments and applications, and we would be able to confidently say “I did my best” when we submit our work. But this isn’t a perfect world, this is University, and if it wasn’t hard it wouldn’t be worth while or important.
Now, I need to get off my lazy behind and get to work. And if the stress starts taking over again maybe I’ll step outside, take a deep breath of cold autumn air, and admire the beautiful fall colours… Before getting right back to work.
Good luck on your mid-semester deadlines everybody!