Here's a riddle for you: I'm one in fifty-two; I am stressful but nothing new. I come around with great fanfare. When I'm passed, all will celebrate. What am I?
If you answered Finals Week, you are absolutely right. And now I am celebrating. I am making like Lindsay Lohan on a chick's night out and throwing caution to the breeze as I party like it's 1699. I'm doing the Tony Romo thing and giving it up for what I gave up.
A few days ago as I looked over my notes one last time before my first examination, it seemed like the week would never end. I was queasy like a sailor in the swells and feeling about as smart as one too. From behind, my tests looked really, well, fat. Now they look like petty undertakings that, while polemic, could have been much worse. I need a T-Shirt saying "I survived Finals Week" or some such overused slogan to help commemorate the accomplishment. I'm not done with school or anything satisfying like that, but I did complete another semester which, if you're a derelict like me, is a big deal.
When my last final was over, I shook my professor's hand, thanked him for the class and then ran for the exit. After an embarrassing and altogether gratuitous encounter with the dean of the college (sorry!), I breathed the open air of liberty. Suddenly struck by cinematic inspiration, I made like Mel Gibson and shouted "FREEEEDOM!" at the top of my lungs. I wasn't really free - summer school starts in three weeks and I'm taking more hours at General Mills in the interim - but I shouted anyway. I don't think anyone still taking a final appreciated my display, but it got a couple chuckles from some passersby.
In hindsight, I can look back and laugh about the late nights studying, the three hour examinations, the oral interviews for language class and the excruciating study groups, but the events of the week itself invited little mirth. In fact, the routine got so tiresome that I could not go the whole way through without a break.
Tangent: One summer a few years ago I was in Lake Havasu,
Nevada Arizona. You know, the home of the London Bridge. I said summer, not spring, so get that idea out of your head. Anyway, the time of year didn't keep me from doing something crazy. Lake Havasu gets really hot in summertime. It gets so warm that some natives get water directly from the lake and poor in their pasta without putting it on the stove top first. I was sweating like a groom in the heat and needed some relief so I went into a local gas station and purchased a gallon of cold water. Over the next 36 minutes (two stop watches collaborated in cataloging my stupidity), I drank the entire thing. Twenty minutes later, I needed relief. Badly.
The relief I sought mid-Finals week was almost exactly like the palliation my bladder craved, only not physiological, liquid or related to meteorology. Come to think of it, my craving had very little to do with Lake Havasu.
I needed a fortune cookie. Hey, pregnant women have their socially acceptable dietary desires, can't a student in the middle of hell week? Thank you. But you can't just eat a fortune cookie, you've got consummate the exercise of reading the cookie's text by enjoying a meal first. So I zipped over to my favorite Chinese restaurant and ordered the old standby. When I finished the food, I carefully opened my cookie while wondering, as I do every time I enjoy one of these ethnic delicacies, what manner of witchcraft was used to bake the cookie without burning the paper.
My fortune read:
Asia? That couldn't possibly be right! My linguistic skill set does nothing to prepare me for the Orient. I can hardly use chop sticks and my back creaks when I try to bow. Not only will I go to Asia, but I will enjoy the trip. What is the significance of that? Was Asia a metaphor for a person, object or even a location closer than the other side of the world? Part of me wanted to return the cookie as defective and demand a replacement, but I was restrained by the knowledge that fortune cookies are like puppies in that people don't pick them; the fortune cookies pick you. "Asia" had picked me and this fate was incontrovertible. I was stuck with an enjoyable trip. Dang it!
For the duration of my remaining exams, I was plagued by this Asia. When I drew Robert Solow's economic growth model for Japan during the 1990s, my mind drifted back to Panda Express. When I answered a question about the concept of Wu-Wei and related it to modern economic theory, I imagined Confucius, the Asian philosopher. Even my French final had a question about francophone countries and I thought twice about putting Vietnam on the page. These "visits" to Asia were hardly "enjoyable," though.
If I fail any of my classes, I have an excuse. That incessant fortune was louder than it looked in the cookie and it distracted me and drove me batty.
Then again, maybe Asia is the summer I am about to enjoy...