How it All Went Down (“All” Meaning Finals Week)

So now that I’m back at home, doing a whole lot of nothing without feeling guilty about it, watching a ridiculous amount of Glee, and mutually Facebook stalking my college friends, here’s an update of how my last week of freshman year (or first-year year?*) went down:

So finals . . . that was a thing. Possibly one of the worst ways to end a year. Instead of enjoying your last moments with the people who have become your family over the past year**, you throw yourself into stressful cramming and painful all-nighters. You get so caught up in wanting the week to end that you forget that you really don’t want the year to end. And then it’s just over. People just start trickling away at their own pace and then eventually you find yourself sitting on an airplane on a cross-continental flight, wondering what just happened.

Except to be honest, it wasn’t the actual finals that were so bad for me. My most stressful assignments were papers which I had already turned in the previous week. Sure I had to study, but I had enough time, and technically I could have done it without depriving myself of sleep or enjoyment. Objectively, I didn’t have too much to worry about.

Except that panic was everywhere. I felt a strange obligation to lock myself in a library with textbooks and cry all night, just because that seemed to be the thing to do that week. Ownership of a struggle bus ticket was basically universally assumed. Plus, I thought, is anyone ever really done studying?–I didn’t know everything yet. And even if I wanted to do something fun, it would be tough to find someone to do it with me.

So it was the Sunday before most of my finals and I was sitting there, studying history beyond the point where I was gaining any marginal benefit. And then I realized that I was in New York. 

A few hours later, I found myself downtown at a dance company audition.

So it was a little more complicated than that. I keep up with dance audition listings in a passive “yeah, maybe I should go to something, sometime” kind of way, so this was on my radar, but aimlessly burying myself in textbooks seemed like an adequate reason not to go. Once I changed my mind, I figured that I had better get myself on a subway before I talked myself out of it, because:

  • Don’t people spend a fortune to rent apartments in New York just so they can go to these things? And I was already there.
  • I always thought that it would be a good idea to start going to auditions during college. Like maybe if I can get through that phase of showing up to things without ever getting a job now, I could go straight to the phase of actually getting hired after graduation, when it actually matters. Maybe.
  • That auditioning thing wasn’t really happening yet. But I figured that if I start doing doing something now, I’m way more likely to keep doing it.
  • Since getting on HuffPo, I was in the mood for putting myself out there into the “real world.”
  • I actually no longer knew how to keep studying.
  • I was scared. 50% of the time, doing things that scare me ends up so well that it more than makes up for the other 50%.

I had to throw together a resume and figure out how to get a headshot printed. The printers at Rite Aid were jammed, and when I actually got it printed, I realized (too late) that they had printed my headshot in landscape, so I had an extremely close slice of the center of my face with the top of my head cut off. Oh well. I think that counts as creative.

The nervous/out-of-place/what-am-I-doing-with-my-life feeling went away once the audition started. It was an audition/workshop which means that actual learning/experimentation was happening instead of just battling it out to make it through the next cut. There was some contact improv, wonderfully quirky and physical phrase work, and partnering. Except for that moment when I dropped my parter (whoops), it was a challenging, liberating, and wonderfully real experience.

I studied enough anyway and my finals seemed to go well. Still waiting for most of my grades (I’m trying to be one of those cool people who care about learning and quality of work, not grades, but I’m not quite at that level yet). Storing my things was more complicated than it should have been, but it ended up all right. Cleaning out my stuff freaked me out. And now I’m back.

*If you’re out of the loop, “first-year” is supposed to be a more inclusive replacement for “freshman” which has age and gender connotations. Which is all fine, but if we’re going to pick these points, how come no one has found “sophomore” to be just as offensive?

**”Dramatic much?” you wonder. “You’re only a freshman and you’ll see all these people next year.” Well yes, but my housing group was a very connected bunch with a particular chemistry, and it’s unlikely that I’ll be with the same set of people in the same place in the same context ever again. I expect that next year will be great too, but I also acknowledge that there is a unique and unreproducible energy that comes with a particular combination of people and context. This combination was wonderful, and I’m sad to see it go.

Don’t worry, people. There are more sentimental end-of-year reflections to come.

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