Thoughts, Dreams and Coffee Rings

The Great Expectations of 4 a.m.

I know. It’s a romantic image.

Deep in the depths of a dim, fluorescent-lit library, nestled between a tower of Red Bull cans and class notes, the noble college student pores over a stack of tearstained textbooks at 4 a.m.

The clock ticks and fingers race against the keys of a laptop computer until, just in the knick-of-time, our weary-eyed scholar slams the books shut, rushes off to classes, delivers a flawless presentation, and heads off to work the late shift at a part-time job – all in the name of academia.

Unfortunately, reality is often darker than romance, and this collegiate reality comes with more dark circles.

As the year winds down into final projects and exams, and student anxieties wind up, I feel that this is an appropriate time to confront this ideal.

It has taken me nearly three-and-a-half years to figure out that it doesn’t work. Life can’t be fueled by an infinite cycle of caffeine and Ramen Noodles. Even so, I still spend much of my time trying to do so.

Often, sleep deprivation feels unavoidable.

Things have to get done. We have to work. We have to take care of our extracurricular responsibilities. We have keep up with classes. All the while, we still have to be humans with physical, social and emotional needs.

In my own life, the answer has been to focus on how to take a step back and slow down.

I like to learn.

I don’t like to fighting to stay awake at 4 a.m., rushing through the latest onslaught of papers and presentations and chasing unrealistic expectations of collegiate perfection, all while being too tired to learn a single thing.

I’m looking for something more from life than crossing the finish line of an academic arms race, just to rush onto the starting line of a workplace rat race.