Off Campus

In Experience: What to do, what to do

By Phoebe Tsao
Columnist

The dreaded “Senior Work Week,” exam week for the other grades, commenced during the final, dark dregs of the first trimester. Besides taking our last tests and writing our last papers before grades closed, we seniors had to pull our college applications together, submit the Senior Essay (which is a Big Deal), take any exams expected of us, and form a somewhat cohesive plan for our Senior Spring Projects.

During this hell week, I captioned a black-and-white Snapchat of myself sitting at my desk, looking exaggeratedly despondent. And to start this grim period, the Sunday night before the Monday of Senior Work Week, I experienced an unpleasant but not altogether unexpected novelty as I battled my last two essays of 2015: my very first all-nighter.

To be honest, I’m surprised I hadn’t pulled an all-nighter before. I’ve come close—many times in my three-and-a-half years here, I’ve certainly fallen asleep at 4:00 in the morning only to wake up two hours later for school. I have friends who’ve pulled all-nighters once or twice and come to school wearing slouchy sweaters and baggy sweatpants, the sleep deprivation clear in the tired lines of their faces. I know people who regularly get three hours of sleep a night and can go without sleeping at all. (Practice makes perfect, I guess.)

I’m also surprised at how easy it was, typing away as the sky turned orange and periwinkle, peering through blurry eyes at the word count that was still 300 words fewer than required, and somehow being able to ignore the awfulness of the whole experience until I finally crashed that afternoon. What struck me most, though, as I woke up from a two-hour nap, was just how stupid I was for not sleeping.

The academic all-nighter is pulled on weeknights when the student gets home at 8:00 p.m. and when there are two tests and two papers due the next day. It’s really an exercise in desperation and scholastic determination and is sort of something to be admired, if you don’t factor in the blatant disregard for personal health.

In my case, however, the all-nighter was not born of discipline and resolve, but procrastination. I had neither tests to study for nor nightly homework to complete—only the rest of my Senior Essay and a 1,000- to 2,000-word paper for my Global Online Academy (GOA) class.

At 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, I was procrastinating. That said, I’d only woken up at 4:00 p.m. I’m a notoriously late sleeper on weekends.

At 8:00 p.m. on Sunday, I was still procrastinating. Netflix is the bane of many students’ existence, and my own limited motivation was the bane of mine.

At 10:00 p.m., I finished re-watching Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

At 12:00 a.m., I realized with a sickening lurch in my stomach that I still had one-and-a-half sonnets to write for my Senior Essay (I was emulating Shakespeare’s sonnets, with the iambic pentameter and rhyme scheme and everything) and, for my GOA paper, five pages about whether the United States should intervene in foreign human rights violations.

Panicking ever-so-slightly, I calculated: three hours for the Senior Essay, because I still had to revise it, and four, at the very least, for an outline and thesis for the GOA paper. If I began right away, I would be done by 7:00 a.m., in time to shower, feed the cat, eat some breakfast, and get to school.

I know I’m not the only person who does this at BB&N. That frustrating and terrifying purgatory between not being able to do a task and not being able to avoid it is something I’ve discussed with many of my peers, and every time, that state leads either to missing work or, more importantly, missing sleep. Of course, not everyone has this problem with procrastination—but it’s widespread and significant enough to address.

In reading these columns, you might have noticed that whenever I write about something novel yet foolish that I have done, I try to relate it to the rest of the school community. I state a problem prevalent in our society and then propose a solution.

But the thing is, I don’t have one this time. Procrastination is a problem I haven’t been able to solve, and one of my most debilitating at that. We can’t just tell ourselves not to procrastinate. If it were as simple as that, we wouldn’t be procrastinating.

So, if willpower isn’t enough, what can we do?

The Vanguard would love to hear your ideas or solutions. Send them to Opinions Editor Amber Wolf, and we will publish them as Letters to the Editor in our February issue.

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