And in what felt like no time at all, it’s all over.
This week I finished my Law degree, and it’s been a weird one.
On Sunday it was my 21st birthday, and whilst I thought that it would be horrendous, because it was followed by two consecutive days of exams, the fact that I love birthdays made the day of revision significantly better. (And being a May baby you’d think I was used to the birthday exam season already, but no!)
Few people get why I love birthdays so much. For me, it’s like your own personal New Year’s Eve – the designated point in the year where you can reflect on who you have around you, what you’ve achieved, and what has changed in that year of your life. But this is a day personal to you; one where you can pause and see how things have progressed from one year to the next so you can set goals for the next one. Since I’m an exam-time birthday person it really shows who you’ve got around you. It’s a day of people; a day to appreciate all the wonderful in your life – the people who make the time to make your day the best it can be. And mainly that’s just by being there, or sending a message or a card. It gets people to show their love for one another and come together in a way that they don’t necessarily get to show on a daily basis. A day full of love that shows you all that there is to be grateful for in your life – what more could you ask for?
After a lovely lunch I spent the rest of the day at uni studying. Food was what was getting me through a lot of the struggle at this point. Lots of nice food.
So let’s talk about that struggle…
When you think of achieving things at university all that you get to see is the stream of ‘I’ve finished my dissertation’ and ‘woo I’m free from exams’ photos. But, as we all know, the polished end product is far from representative of the battle that happens in order to get you there. And I think that glorious struggle needs some recognition – because that’s what your degree has really been. Your degree is not the polished photo where you’re all nice and happy and human. That’s just a snapshot. One moment in a thousand. It’s so much more than that.
It’s when you have to finish a chapter in a book for an essay, but you just can’t read any more and you’re having to drag yourself through each page with every ounce of strength that you have.
It’s sitting in the David Wilson library for so long that the abnormally bright lights actually start to make your eyes hurt – but you have to get the work done.
It’s wearing the same clothes and not showering or brushing your hair for socially unacceptable amounts of time because the essay is due soon and you’ve just got to keep going.
It’s sleeping at weird times and waking up at even weirder times (4:30am being my personal favourite) because there just aren’t enough hours in the day and motivation is a temperamental thing.
It’s going longer without sleep than you ever thought you could, to the point of not being able to construct sentences.
It’s calling upon your closest friends to help you with said temperamental motivation and talk you out of just running away and giving up by telling you that you can do it, even when you don’t believe you can.
It’s falling asleep on desks in front of strangers because you know if you go home you probably won’t come back to the dreaded, horrendously packed library.
It’s excruciatingly sitting with a cold in peak snotty-ness, knowing you’ll be in that exam room for the next three and a half hours, with one hand holding tissues over your nose, and the other frantically scribbling like your life depends on it (but trying not to blow your nose because you don’t want to distract anyone around you).
It’s physically dragging yourself through this. It’s hard, and it’s demoralising. But eventually you get it. The concepts click and you find the joy in what you’re learning. You see the bigger picture. You write the essay, you sit the exam, and in hindsight it all seems okay. You forget the petulant, stressful, relentless hours that it took to get that final product because all the hours merge into one.
This is what it’s all about. This is what makes it worth it.
This isn’t everyone’s experience, but there’s a struggle behind every graduation picture and it’s far more beautiful than any perfect photograph. Nothing worth having is ever easy.
So instead of a cheesy, photogenic photograph (not that it would have even been possible on the day I finished my exams), here’s what a Law degree really looks like:
Little nap in the Law Soc office. Lectures, tutorials and societies – a tiring business.
Obscenely early starts are a struggle.
Many a study room was involved in the making of this Law degree.
Exam season epitomised. (pt 1)
Exam season (pt 2).
Exam season (pt 3).
Essay deadlines approaching – forgot about my hair and left it up for far too long.
Essay planning – not even close to the finished product.
‘Don’t worry I’m still in my pjs studying too!’
Essay-writing mood: ‘Okay it’s getting late now’
Paper played an important part in all of this.
‘I’ve now moved to the floor. I’m laying on paper. I’m extremely sleep deprived but I’m still going.’
The real ‘I’ve just finished an assessed piece of work with lots of words in it’ photo (approx 8am).
So there you have it – the struggle. The super ugly truth. All it took was a tonne of hours, amazing friends, my red dressing gown, copious amounts of food, very little sleep and very few showers, more motivation than I thought I’d ever have, a forest’s worth of paper, listening to Sleeping at Last on repeat, one David Wilson library, reaction-photos that Lucie and I, and others, send each other so we can laugh at the disaster that is ourselves when trying to achieve this monstrous thing, and the ability to convince myself it’ll be okay so I could keep on going.
The invigilator fittingly declared ‘time’s up’ in the final moments of my last exam. It had a bittersweet double-meaning to me, but it just could not do the gravity of the situation justice. I don’t know how long it’ll take for me to feel any version of normal after this roller-coaster, but now it’s time to accept that my time here really is up.