In every college student’s life there comes a much dreaded time of year – Finals Week. This week and the preceding weeks are accompanied by much stress, confusion, desperation, panic, and gnashing of teeth. I feel like a calm island in the sea of chaos as I witness my peers talk frantically about how they need to stay up all night to study for an exam the next day or to turn in a paper that is due tomorrow. I often wondered how students fell into this trap. Procrastination, yes but I feel that there is an underlying issue at hand here. Even since freshman year, I managed to turn in all my assignments on time with little stress. Half of the time, I manage to do turn things early or study early. I then find the week before finals as a way to center myself for the week ahead.
After much contemplation, I have come to discover that the underlying issue is one of ego destruction. Ego destruction is exactly what it sounds like, destruction of who you are, your sense of self. Finals week requires that you give your all and nothing less if you wish to succeed. This means you must destroy who you are and suspend all of your desires and beliefs. Basically two of the things that make you – you. Ego destruction is a very difficult thing to do, even for a person who has destroyed their ego various times in the course of their life, like I have. Every time, it manages to get a little easier but it still hurts. What are the benefits of ego destruction at finals week? Razor-sharp focus, dedication towards studying and reviewing, time management, and many other habits that are beneficial towards the completion of the goal of finals week – success. As an interesting aside, many individuals who take high does of psychedelics (lysergic acid diethylamide, psilocybin mushrooms, MDMA) report feelings of ego death during the duration of their “trip” and residual feelings afterwards.
Today, I was in the library in the early hours of the morning. I heard a girl on a phone with someone, most likely her parents. She was crying uncontrollably and talking about how she felt so misunderstood and how she felt like she was slowly falling apart. I was not eavesdropping, but she was talking so loud that I could not help but hear her. I felt bad because I knew that there was nothing to do and I genuinely felt sorry for her. I can only imagine how many other people feel like this. Ego destruction is something that must be willed before an opposing force comes to destroy your own ego. When you yourself destroy your own ego and accept this, the hard part has been done by you. When a force comes and destroys your ego, it will shatter it into parts that may or may not be retrievable. It is akin to the strategic breaking of damaged bones by doctors so that it can heal correctly, rather than risking an improper heal without intervention. Ego destruction sounds frightening, but it can be an interesting process because it lets you know what type of person you are and how much you can take. This girl was not ready for finals week and because of this, it shattered her. What is the damage? Only the doctor knows.
No painting nails, no playing guitar, no reading of books, no going shopping to the mall, no talking long hours on the phone to your boyfriend, no cooking of birthday cakes, no spending long hours on Facebook. All of these must be suspended until the task is done.
If you manage to prepare early enough, you may not have to undergo ego destruction. Still, everyone does at some point in their life, whether consciously or unconsciously. Finals week will break everybody in some way. The question isn’t how much you can take before you break, it is if you will be able to pick up the pieces of who you were and reassemble yourself at the end of the day.