“Where’s the library?” my sister texted me, looking to meet up with me on her campus visit.
“It’s the one with the names on it and a cloud of angry, stressed-out smokers,” I wrote back.
My sister found the library just fine.
“It’s midterm season, [expletive],” I explained, greeting her at Butler’s entrance with a broad gesture to the dedicated crowd on Smoker’s Plaza. We giggled and went off to have dinner.
You see, I actually don’t have any midterms this semester. You totally hate me right now, but I worked hard for the past seven semesters to have this final, light load of classes to send me off. I know, I know—I’m the worst. And it’s the best. But since I get to observe rather than participate this time around, I am appreciating the hard work this community does more than usual, and I would like to salute all of you for every assignment, test, and paper you have pulled off thus far this semester and will pull off by the end of this week.
“I’m wearing Uggs and a North Face puffer jacket,” my sister said, rolling her eyes as we walked toward Amigos. “I felt so judged by all the ‘cool’ smokers.” With that, my sister identified one of my favorite things about these high-stress periods on campus: You all dress really damn well.
I am not entirely sure what it is about a community-wide, prolonged freakout that increases the sartorial ability of Columbia and Barnard students, but it is something I have taken note of 15 times over the last seven and a half semesters (i.e. each midterms and finals season). Scarves slicked artfully in carefully piled hair, combat boots tied to messy perfection, wonderfully mushy big sweaters with marvelous slouch fit, strength in layering in case you’re in Butler 210 and the heater goes on high. It’s like the library version of “Time to impress, pull out your freakum dress.”
You put your game faces on. And I salute you, well-dressed balls of high-strung stress. You look your midterm right in the eye and say, “Bring it on. I’m wearing a tie—I can handle it.”
Because ultimately, you can and will handle it. For four years now, whenever my roommate and I start worrying about an assignment or exam we remind each other: “It’ll get done.” We’ve consoled and reprimanded each other with that phrase—we’ve texted it, we’ve written it on Post-it notes, we’ve put it above our door. Miraculously, somehow, it—whatever ‘it’ happens to be—always does get done. Maybe it will take an extension and an all-nighter and an ugly cry and a head pounded against the SGO conference table (my personal favorite hidden study space—I now grant it unto you), but it gets done, and then it’s summer or winter or spring break, and the world is lovely again.
This is the one piece of advice I try to impart to my underclassmen friends: These periods of high stress do not last forever. In fewer than three days, you will be hanging out and life will be easy, breezy, and beautiful. Now, this is where my computer science, engineering, and math friends roll their eyes and scoff because—unlike us slackers—for them every week is midterm week. And I salute you, constantly worn-out geniuses, because you do work really hard, and I am massively impressed by your abilities to do so, and can you help me with this simple HTML error I keep making?
I also salute those of you who will not be getting a spring break next week. I salute my roommate and the rest of those who courageously decided to write a thesis and will therefore be spending their spring break holed up at desks writing and researching. You are much smarter and more dedicated than I could ever be. Similarly, high five to those who will be spending time hanging in Butler catching up on homework and readings.
I salute you who will be going to work over break and funding yourselves. I salute you who are going home and contending with family drama and taking care. I salute you who are doing grad school visits or doing something weird and non-break-like that does not fall under any of the previously listed categories. And I salute Joseph Milholland, CC ’17, and the rest of those who had to deal with Jesse Watters, because you guys are heroes.
Anyway, the truth is that sometimes this place is rough. But high stress periods never last forever. At some point you will come across a break, and you will look back at all the work you have done and be sincerely impressed, and—trust me—it will be the best. And then you will eat 5,000 calories in fajitas and guacamole and pat yourself on the back, you son of a bitch.
Alexandra Svokos is a Columbia College senior majoring in creative writing and economics. She is the former editor in chief of Bwog. Svocalizing runs alternate Wednesdays.
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