Bottom of the Barrel

Kai Teigen

Bottom of the Barrel

My first semester of high school is drawing to a close and dear God I finally understand why my older sister would always get so stressed out before winter break. I’m excited for the holidays but my anticipation of two weeks off is now tainted by my fear of impending doom in terms of grades. I’ve felt fine about my grades this entire semester, but now that they’re dangerously close to going onto transcripts for college my brain has gone into panic mode. The problem with grades is that they don’t matter until they do. I almost never think about how I’m doing in class because somehow the future outside of the next seven days just doesn’t exist in my head. I know it’s real and that it’s important but it doesn’t feel like it matters. I shove all awareness under my metaphorical mind rug, until I’ve almost reached complete disaster, at which point I freak out, miraculously gain ridiculous amounts of work ethic, energy, and motivation, and yank myself away from the edge of academic oblivion.

The thing is that for a while this system was okay. I always knew I was going to Berkeley High School, so grades really didn’t matter. And now that I’m in high school and a bad grade could have a huge impact on my future, you’d think that I’d have let go of such an irrational mindset, but I’m still stuck in it. Every week I attempt to wrestle myself into becoming a semi-functional, responsible human being, but for the life of me, I have no idea how. The only reason I’m not a complete mess is that in five years of awful study habits I’ve managed to glean a couple of ways to keep myself afloat, and while I figure most of you are already aware of these methods I’d like to offer them here all the same. Now, of course, the most powerful weapon in the procrastinator’s arsenal is the all-nighter, so that’s the first thing we’ll cover.

A few tricks I’ve learned for keeping awake: the most obvious one is heavy caffeination, but there are also more unorthodox methods, such as extreme amounts of Led Zeppelin blasted at full volume through earbuds, or continually dunking your face in ice water. The thing about all-nighters is that the morning after is always hell, that’s why you may want to turn to more effective methods like study groups. There’s at least a few other people who are in the same boat as you. Study groups can actually be fun; you can bond in your collective misery and benefit from your pooled knowledge. But more importantly, study partners can help you when all you need is that extra push.

The thing that we all need to remember is that just barely keeping our heads above water isn’t a long-term solution. We need to get ourselves into healthy, responsible study habits, and I have faith that we will. But until that day we shall continue to battle forward, staying alive with whatever crude tricks we choose to employ. No matter how dire an assignment may seem, there is always a way through.

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