It's finals time around my house, and it's the first round for my high school freshman son. My college age daughters went through this a while ago, so everything old is new again. Lucky for the young scholar, his big sister, the math whiz, is still home, so the study is filled with the sagas of x's and y's and words like "slope intercept."
Watching someone else go through finals is just as stressful, because it brings up the memories of all those all-nighters and cups of coffee. Don't you still have those dreams? You know, the one where you're sitting in a class, with an exam book in front of you, but you've never attended the course? Or the one where you're frantically searching for a classroom to take the exam, and you simply can't find it. There's a reason our anxiety dreams take the form of finals! (Please tell me I'm not the only one to have these kinds of nightmares!) It's just that finals are so cumulative. So, no matter how much we prepare, we still feel like we have to cram, even just a little.
I don't think we stop cramming when our school careers are over. Some of us cram stuff into every nook and corner of our homes. Some of us cram our lives with experiences, or people, one after the other. We cram things into suitcases when we can find time to travel. And all of us cram things into our days—people, business, friends, lovers, appointments, coffees, even time to "relax." It's all crammed into our calendars, our phones (which sync, of course), and our heads. Einstein said, "Never memorize something that you can look up." and yet we still cram useless and useful data into our ever-shrinking memory data bases.
It's not just the fill-in-the-blank questions, either. There are essay questions, and not always open-book. How well have we internalized the lessons that have been, yes, crammed down our throats about life and love? How have we applied what we've learned? Can we compare and contrast our experiences, to express understanding of how the various components of our lives are related?
Then there's the true/false part of every day. Yes, it's still a 50/50 chance of getting each question wrong, but it feels like the stakes are higher now. Who are the people we can truly depend on, and who is a false friend? Where are our inner truths, and how do we keep falseness from creeping into our lives?
The truth is every day feels like a final exam. How much do we remember, and not let fall through the cracks? We have to remember dates from the past, like who took what medicine, how the meeting turned out, or when was the last time we heard that noise coming from the dishwasher. We also have to remember dates for the future—who's got what appointment, who needs the car when, etc.? Am I speaking only of myself, or do others feel like they're taking a cumulative exam every day too, juggling and parsing and balancing, just to get to the end of the day without major crises? Yay! An 'A' for the day!
Heaven knows, there is no study guide for life. If there was, I'd feel so much more prepared! I'd like to think that if I keep up, "study" a little every day, I won't get slammed on the final, but truth is, I end up cramming anyway, doing just enough prep to get through the next day. And just for the record, my son isn't cramming. He's done his best to develop a study strategy and stick to it. I'm really proud of him. It's great that he's developing good study habits now. Too bad it won't help him in the real world.