The Strange Calm of Finals Week
Finals week is upon us, along with dropping temperatures and sore throats that never seem to go away. While this week is never something I eagerly anticipate, I always manage to find small pockets of joy in between the tests and papers. Part of me is always excited to show what I can do, as if the whole semester has been preparing me for this week of weeks. I’m not excited for the tests, really, but rather for the chance to end everything the way I want to end it, to tie off a semester with the gusto that I struggled to muster throughout the long month of November.
Part of the appeal of finals week is that everything stops. As someone who is in rehearsal for much of her waking life, it is almost a relief to have only academics to focus on. The Thrill doesn’t put out content during finals week. Chamber Singers and Jazz Band do not rehearse. While my schedule normally has at least 10 different meetings or rehearsals or events to attend every day, during finals week, I have the luxury of setting aside three-hour blocks just to workshop my paper, or to make Quizlet set after Quizlet set.
Even a scrap of The New York Times can function as a checklist for writing my final paper for a 19th-Century American Novel class.
And nothing compares to the post-test rush, or the high of turning in your final paper. No matter if the class was amazing or mind-numbingly dull, having a tangible finish line to cross at the end of the semester makes the ending that much sweeter. Few things bring me more joy than going home after an evening final and just swimming in the possibilities of what to do next. I could try to take up knitting again, or read one of the unread New Yorkers stacked high on my desk, or go to sleep at 8 p.m. just because I can. Of course, there is always another final to be studied for, another paper to be written, but giving yourself a little present, a little break after each final is essential to staying sane, at least in my experience.
The little rewards to myself are always what get me through. If nothing else, having a solid week of assignments to turn in and tests to sit down for is a test of one’s intrinsic motivation. How badly do I want to do well, and why is it important to me? If there’s one thing I’ve learned in college, it’s that grades shouldn’t come at the expense of one’s mental health and general wellbeing. Giving myself breaks from schoolwork makes me a more well-rounded student, and ironically, finals week is always when I have the most free time at Kenyon. I recommend going to the Kenyon Athletic Center during finals week. It’s almost guaranteed to be deserted. Going to Peirce is fun, too. While the dining rooms are still full (we need study fuel!), it’s a quieter, more productive space during this time of year. Sitting with my friends, whether I’m studying, complaining about how annoying this paper is, or taking a few minutes to do the crossword with their help, always puts me in a better mindset to handle the rest of my workload.
It’s always nice to have closure, be it with a person or with a class, and finals week has always seemed like a suitable goodbye for the semester. It’s almost tempting to delay the goodbye. Often I find myself tinkering with a final paper long after it was ready to be sent in, not wanting to let it go. Last year, after my last final, 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, my friends and I went to the radio station and played a three-hour show, Christmas songs mostly. It was fun. Freeing. The next day I flew home, feeling worn out and happy, ready to leave but sorry to go. It’s a clean ending, for the most part. Finals week leaves you with the option of reinventing yourself next semester, turning to a fresh page. It’s a quiet ending, but a good one, and it’s something I always try not to take for granted.