Updated: Nov 27, 2020
Everything that needs to be done always gets done. Take a deep breath and read that again. It always gets done. And if it doesn't, then it probably wasn't that important, anyway.
This time of year can be particularly overwhelming for anyone in university, and probably for anyone who works some sort of job that really picks up around the holiday season. So far in my life I've always fallen into the former category, and this year is no exception. It's cute how last year at this time, as I wrapped up my BA, I truly believed that I would be free from the stress of academia as the end of November falls upon us all too suddenly, and yet here I am: once again plagued with the bi-annual student anxiety of every single assignment piling up seemingly out of the blue. I could have sworn these daunting due dates were still three months away! Time has a way of creeping up as late November approaches, which makes sense considering that our days quite literally feel like they've been cut in half when the sun decides to end its shift at 4:30 pm. That's messed up, y'all. How do we survive this year after year? On the bright side (oh the irony), pursuing an after-degree BEd does come with one particularly sweet blessing from above: a complete and utter lack of final exams. Not a single one. I'm not sure if this makes total sense or if it's absolutely hypocritical that we future exam-makers are exempt from the pain of actually writing a final, but I am not complaining. As a serious test-anxiety-sufferer, there is no end to my relief about never again sitting in a 3-hour, do-or-die, this-determines-your-entire-future exam. (Funny how looking back none of those exams did end up determining my entire future. Ha! So funny!)
Around this time of year comes the massive to-do list that I simultaneously adore and abhor. I rejoice in slowly chipping away at the list but also spend many wasted minutes just glaring at it anxiously when only one of ten items has been checked off. (Since beginning this post a few short days ago, I'm now at four of ten tasks checked off. Yes, I'm perfect, I know.) And oh, let us not forget the agony of having that one last exam dangling at the bottom of the page, taunting you with the excruciating pain of not being able to check it off, no matter how much you study, until you actually write the damn thing. That may be the worst part of it all, and I'm so thankful to be dodging that experience this year. An armful of assignments, I can handle; exams, I cannot. So as I sit with the unnervingly extensive list of tasks to complete before me, I remind myself that everything always gets done. I know this because I have been here many times in my apparently never-ending university career: flipping through my agenda, frantically calculating exactly how many assignments I have left, and carving out my next few weeks to make sure I have more than enough time to start each one at least a week before it's due so it can be edited and reworked to oblivion (did you not believe me when I said I was perfect?). It happens every November, and then again in March, every single year. Except last year, of course, when I took that brief break from school and thought I was going to be an adult with a job for the rest of my life. What a short-lived phase that was! But last March brought on a flood of other more persistent and catastrophic issues, so it seems my Novembers and Marches have been consistently unpleasant for six years now. Goodie!
So if anyone else is feeling inundated with their workload at this time, just remember that you've been here before and it always gets done. Your list always ends up fully checked off, and oh, how satisfying it is to cross off that last box and relish in the sweet freedom that washes over you. I suppose in the real world it doesn't quite work that way. Perhaps there is always more to come, and maybe the to-do list never truly ends because you're constantly finding more tasks that need to be completed. But maybe taking it one day at a time and seeing how much you can accomplish in eight hours is a good start. Or getting everything done that needs to be done before you take some time off for the holidays. Surely there are small ways to celebrate small victories, and I am a passionate celebrator of the little things. Like, I made a fantastic vanilla latté this morning -- truly some of my best work -- and it was so good I even wrote about it in my morning pages! I'm not sure if that counts as a celebration, to journal to myself about my budding talent as a barista, but I stand by what I said: celebrate the little things! The big things are overrated, anyway, and the little things are usually what bring us the most joy. Plus, each day is guaranteed to have at least a few mini triumphs and nuggets of delight, so instead of dwelling on the list of responsibilities before you, take the time to notice and appreciate the small joys all around you. I promise if you look for them, you'll find them everywhere.
As for me, at midnight on December 9th, I will be free until 2021. I am very much looking forward to checking off my final item and slinking into a beautifully carefree existence that I will cherish with my whole heart, since this will actually, for real this time, be one of my last opportunities to enjoy student life and a total lack of responsibility over Christmas. Oh, how wonderful it is to be young and in school! I almost forgot that most people don't have this luxury! I suppose it would be great to have a seasonal job and make some money over the break, but seasonal means you can't book off Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve and all the other equally important days that come between, and as I said, I'm trying to enjoy this while I still can. I have strong values about not working during the holidays. That is a privilege, absolutely, but if it's a privilege I can afford, I'm going to take it. Plus, I like to spend my time off by catching up on all the books I've been wanting to read and writing more and quite simply doing whatever the heck I feel like. Wow, saying "doing whatever the heck I feel like" makes me feel alive. Things are looking up! Well, after I check off the six essays and projects left on my list that are all due in the next two weeks. Thankfully my anxiety keeps me working well in advance so as to never be faced with the crippling stress of rushing into a last-minute assignment. There's still a lot of work ahead of me, but I know it will all get done. It always does.
I wish you all happiness as you plough through your to-do lists! Don't you dare forget to have a mini-celebration for each item you check off, no matter how minor it may seem. Heck, I even recommend throwing some mundane tasks on there just for the satisfaction of crossing it off. Shower? Check! Eat breakfast? Check! Make world's best latté? Check! (Oh, that one's probably just for me. But don't feel bad -- we can't all be the world's best latté maker. I'm sure you're great at something else!) And if you're lucky enough not to have a to-do list, well, maybe make one? Life is so much more satisfying when you get to check boxes throughout your day. Even if it's "make breakfast, eat breakfast, watch TV, take nap." Check those boxes, y'all, and savour in the unparalleled feeling of accomplishment. And don't forget to appreciate all the small joys along the way.
P.S. If anyone is following along on my education journey, I have officially been moved into the French elementary program! I had to do a super quick French proficiency interview and submit a short written piece, and I am now on route to being a French immersion teacher. And you best believe I checked those two to-dos off my list with great enthusiasm!