A bizarre thing happened to me this morning – I woke up early. Having gone to bed soon after midnight, awakening at 6 am is not something I tend to make a habit of. I mean, I’m still a student and I’m essentially paying for the privilege of remaining in bed until either my stomach or bladder demand otherwise. It was an unusual feeling of unbridled serenity combined with complete boredom. It was one of those mornings when you’re pretty sure you are the only person awake in the world and you’re going to have to wait hours for human contact, but you’ll still slightly resent whoever it is that breaks this beautiful, mind-numbing silence.
What was worse is I knew exactly why my slumber had been cut so dramatically short. This was not a case of looking for meaning in coincidence; it was all my own doing. It was Tuesday. Article submission day. Did I have an article? No. Did I go to the pub then watch Tool Academy instead? Possibly. Do I do this nearly every time I have to write an article? Perhaps.
Over Christmas, it dawned on me that writing for The Bubble requires that I tap out over 5000 words per semester, in addition to my degree commitments. That is an extra summative essay every term, just for fun. It is an additional stress every two weeks that results in medically perilous caffeine consumption, sleep deprivation and the kind of temperament that saw me once become genuinely angry at a squirrel for being all “smug and bushy”. Despite this bi-monthly perturbation, I’ve failed to learn my lesson and seem to be actively searching for ways to make my life more difficult. I’ve recently applied for an editorial position within The Bubble; I’m considering becoming a mentor and even flirted with the possibility of volunteer work. This is, of course, on top of college rowing, which is notorious for monopolising all your time and having the detrimental effects to your degree normally associated with alcohol and Facebook. With such a workload, eventually something will have to give and this master plan of über-efficiency will invariably falter. I recall a friend of whom I was highly jealous, owing to their ability to maintain (a considerably more successful) rowing career alongside a degree in medicine. You can imagine my utter delight upon discovering they had failed a recent set of exams.
So why this relentless persistence to fill more time than I possibly have, display an outrageous lack of organisational skills and risk producing an article that looks like it came out of a Broadmoor creative writing class?
So many of us, after literally years at university, still believe that an essay can be written in an evening and joke “oh golly, I do this every time”, knowing full well that we’ve inflicted an unnecessary amount of pressure on ourselves. Never has it seemed so true that, if history has taught us anything, it is that people learn nothing from history.
The logic behind this ridiculous practice seems to be based in the idea that it is easier to cope with the supplementary stress rather than encourage ourselves to begin work earlier on. In addition to this, “The Fear” (as it is known) enables us to block out external distractions as the ever-present potential chastisement draws closer. Despite being perfectly aware of the repercussions of not submitting a piece of work, it is only when they can take near-immediate effect that they become a factor.
The problem with “high-pressure” essay scenarios is that whilst people can indeed become increasingly focused on a task, they are not focusing on everything that they need to. Furthermore, it is scientific FACT – a welcome addition to one of my articles – that when you become stressed, your body will allocate resources towards your muscles and away from your brain (true story). Therefore, it has thus been arranged by nature that if you become stressed, you physically cannot work as well. All those hours you wasted sitting in your underwear watching West Wing re-runs and eating Nutella from the jar can now be DIRECTLY linked to a failed university education and the subsequent crippling debt, poverty and untimely death. Martin Sheen is simply not worth it.
We are genetically predisposed to be dynamic, intelligent creatures that adapt to varying scenarios to produce the best possible outcome. Our brain is our evolutionary tool and progress our raison d’être, yet all this appears to be forgotten with any prospect of a “quick fix”. We don’t seem to be evolving to mitigate the problems incurred, but rather to tolerate the symptoms.
But this is all getting a little serious now, and to be honest, as few of us have ever altered our essay writing practices, me regurgitating some highly dubious scientific psychobabble is hardly likely to encourage a change any time soon. We have to allow for the fact that human beings are not always students of their own actions even if they are perfectly aware of the consequences. “Put off what I can until tomorrow” seems to be a standard creed and, in all honesty, who the hell brings their “sensible” trousers with them to university anyway?