FINAL FINAL: I just finished my final final exam. It is now just after 330am. I started the second half of the exam before 5pm, and haven't taken a break since.
I've had a lot of jobs over the years: tutor, law intern, librarian, programmer, process analyst, baby-sitter, writer for a Stanford newspaper, and a few others. But being a student is the most demanding occupation I've ever had, and I'll tell you why.
Being a student is a 24 hour job, and the material is purposely designed, by experts in the field, to keep you pushed to the limits of your ability to reason, plan, and work. It is fun and fascinating, but it is also incredibly draining. By the end of every academic quarter I can remember, I have suffered from a form of mental and spiritual fatigue that cannot be healed by sleep, or by medicine, or by hearty meal after hearty meal.
A 24 hour job. At every single moment, the student has to choose between studying and something else. Eat breakfast, or study? Go to class, or study? Sleep, or study? Should I go back to the dorm so that I can call my family, or should I stay here in the library and finish this article / problem set / essay / chapter ? Can I wait until next week to interact with the people I love? Wait, how long has it been? One week, or two?
Working in an office is hard, mainly because you depend on so many other people, and they depend on you. Close coordination becomes key, and I know this can lead to internal politics and other frustrations that students do not have to face, in general.
But in none of my other jobs have I had to stay up for 72 hours straight just to get by. My other jobs had things like food and sleep built-in to the program, if not during the day then sometime after the whistle blew at 5pm or 6pm or 7pm or 8pm or 9pm. It is after 330am right now. And 330am is relatively early, for finals week.
The flexibility of being a student would be a blessing, if it weren't simply stretched and abused to the point of constant, painful tension, just one tiny tug shy of snapping.
But it feels good to be done for this quarter. Now I can begin the long, slow, stiff, and desperate process of releasing the tension without just letting it loose to flail wildly.