Exam season. The hours spent translating your garbled and useless notes into flashcards. Surviving solely on energy drinks and fear of failure. Only ever raising your head from your blank notepad to scowl at strangers who dare make a sound that would almost definitely interrupt your “work” session, were you actually doing any. And if you’re anything like me, the reason exam season is so utterly shit isn’t the thought of sitting in silent rooms with invigilators awkwardly reading over your shoulder- it’s the dreaded “ugh-god-I don’t-want-to-revise” slumping feeling that’ll hover around you and the library in the run up to the actual paper.
It’s not that you don’t want to do well. It’s not that you aren’t capable of learning the stuff. It’s just that there’s somewhere in the region of seventeen thousand other things you’d rather do before sprawling your lecture notes out in front of you and sharply realising that you remember nothing of any value from an entire academic year. Roughly half of those things involve some form of physical pain or discomfort, but they’re still preferable to the tedious mountain ahead of you.
Uh, revision. No one can possibly have ever enjoyed revision. The dull re-reading of lecture Powerpoints has never, in all history of Powerpoints, stirred feelings of joy or amusement in any student. They’re usually hungover, staring at hastily scribbled notes dotted with lost hangman games and to-do lists, nurturing a vague sense of contempt for everything, everywhere. Alternatively, they’re tentatively questioning their friends- trying to gauge how little work everyone else is doing in order to abate the overwhelming feeling of guilt in the back of their minds. The guilt that stares at you like the emotional love child of your mother realising you completely forgot her birthday and the look of pure confused sorrow a puppy will give you when you accidentally tread on it’s paw.
This is the time of year where we should all be hunkering down and studying. You know, studying. Making sense of things lecturers told you seven weeks ago while you were gently snoring away at the back of the room . Studying! It’s cramming an entire year’s reading list into three nights. It’s dutifully highlighting your notes in the vain hope that by colouring the entire page in luminous yellow you’ll magically absorb every word. You must’ve heard of studying. It’s what everyone else is doing while you’re reading this.
But instead of that, students come up with a plethora of distracting and time consuming things to do instead. Usually we aim for something that we could argue holds some kind of value to our life, like finding a Youtube video that teaches you how to make quiche from scratch, or carefully picking out outfits for the summer holidays you haven’t booked yet. We shrilly justify these things with a mild sense of panic and fear of being caught out if our motives are questioned.
“I have to label every single item in the fridge and food cupboards, because, well, I think it’s high time we actualised a structure in this kitchen, you know- I found a mouldy carrot the other month- terrible- and I’m in the process of developing a spreadsheet to note down what everyone’s eaten already, and really, if you’re against this, then, well, you can just, well, fuck off really.”
I take some comfort in knowing I have friends who are that the two opposite ends of the revision scale. My closest friend had to be physically forced into revising for a syntax module last year (though I don’t blame her…), yet another of my close friends genuinely did not know what the word “procrastination” meant, which made me love her even more, and broke my heart simultaneously. Wedging myself in between these two extremes makes for an only slightly uncomfortable stance; a cosy middle that consists of making notes and flashcards, but only of slight educational value. Reading the lecture notes whilst sipping fruit cider in the garden. Reading the summary of the studies I’m supposed to be committing to memory.
So when you decide to tentatively ask me how much revision I’ve done for the upcoming exam, instead of doing my usual trick of lying and making out I’ve been hitting the library from 7am till 9pm daily, rather than watching re-runs of Scrubs all week, I’m going to be honest with you. “Revise? Ha, no, I wrote a blog instead.”
When I first moved to university, alongside all the dilemmas of meeting new people and starting a new course, one of the main worries I had was how I intended on surviving. You know, how to put the washing machine on, how to change a socket, how to cook. These things seemed pretty key to general existence, and I’m ashamed to say that prior to my first day on campus, I’d never successfully completed any of them.
That’s not to say I was completely unprepared. I’d made my fair share of supernoodles in the past, and on occasion done a spot of ironing. But I was under no illusion- these core skills weren’t going to be enough to get me through the next three years (and also the rest of my life…). My mum used to have to threaten throwing everything in my room away before I’d actually consider cleaning it, so “reluctant” kinda covers my general attitude towards domesticity.
A year and a half (more than that, really) into living independently and I’m only marginally wiser. My dirty pots get washed sporadically (sorry, housemates) and my room is like treading through a minefield- but replace explosives with bags of hula hoops or plugs. In all honesty, whenever I say I’m going to tidy my room, in all reality I’ve usually found something cool I’d forgotten about and begun a four hour playing session with it. It doesn’t even have to be especially entertaining- my old Gameboy provides me with as much distraction as a pink paperclip. I’ll lounge on top of a pile worn clothes, toying with the back to an earring I lost months ago, whilst reading my guide to pick-up lines in Mandarin (best birthday present ever), letting time slip away around me. Then, three and a half hours later- I’ve achieved nothing. You know, other than learning how to say “Are you still wearing underwear? Well, then my my watch must be 15 minutes fast.” in Chinese. And as much as that’s vital to every day life, I really needed to find my lecture notes from underneath a fortnight’s worth of books, clothes and discarded food packaging
|Barricaded into my room, mid-tidy up session|
I have this image in my head of adulthood- the far off future when I’ll understand tax codes and own sensible shoes and know how to make gnocchi. Where I’ll go into Marks and Spencer’s to buy birthday presents, and I’ll know the numbers of a few decent plumbers and understand the difference between Shiraz and Rioja. It’s going to happen eventually, and I’d quite confidently tell you that I’ll have accomplished these feats by the time I’m thirty.That seems like a reasonable age to be discussing mortgages. I may have even gotten around to some other life-achievements by then, you know, if I’m not too busy thinking about my pending hip replacement.
This pretty idyllic view of my life in eleven years time is kind of bewildering for me. It’s my own deadline, and it doesn’t seem quite far away enough any more. If I’ve only got just over a decade to start understanding the difference in kitchen cleaning products and how much is appropriate to drink at a networking event, then I should probably have some grounding in the basics right now.
As it stands I’m currently about as much use as lecture in syntactic theory. I’ve never successfully manned a washing machine without supervision, and I don’t have even the loosest idea how to go about making a Sunday Roast. I could probably figure out how to change a fuse, but I’d have to be emotionally prepared for a few electric shocks along the way.
And I’m by no means the least competent person I know. I imagine very few of my similarly-aged friends would feel ready equipped to be a proper, independent, taking-out-the-bins type adult. I think I speak for at least most of us when I say we’re all quite happy to continue in this bizarre student world of adulthood; where the fruit content in cider counts toward your five a day and doing the food shop means skidding round Tesco on a trolley.
Thinking about these things sends me into a downward spiral of panic. What if I’m the only person I know by the time I’m forty who hasn’t hosted a dinner party? What if everyone else is comparing notes on home insurance and I’m still trying to make a portion of pasta stretch to three meals because I can’t be arsed to get some food in?
While calmly deteriorating into a recycling-collection-date frenzy, dwelling on these great life mysteries, I had an epiphany. Eleven years ago, I was eight years old. I didn’t know my left from right properly, nor how to read a clock that used Roman numerals. I couldn’t be trusted to run a bath without fear of a mini-flood, and I wasn’t even tall enough to turn the central heating on, never mind know what to do if it wasn’t working. Now, a fully functioning nineteen year old, and I’m more than capable of all these things. They seemed impossible and far off when I was still strutting around in jelly shoes, but then so did graduating from primary school. If I’ve overcome eleven years of growing up without any major mishaps once before, I think I’m going to be able to do it again. And if I place learning how to calculate my electricity bill in the same boat as learning how to write joined-up, then I’m counting on it coming naturally after a period of trial and error, and only one or two situations where my lack of ability embarrasses me enough to motivate actually learning how to do it properly.