Breathe, finals aren’t the worst thing that could happen to you

Paul Hazelton

Paul Hazelton

Recently, many of us have been experiencing recurring nightmares in which one of our professors stands at the end of a pencil-thin bridge. We stand in the middle of that bridge, looking down into oblivion, and that’s when our professor, dressed in the traditional black robe of academia, shouts, “You shall not pass!” With that, the apparition slams a staff down hard onto the bridge, leaving a big red “F” mark. The bridge splinters and breaks and we fall helpless to our doom.

In another dream, we stand at the edge of a well, making excuses for ourselves, until our professor, draped in a red toga, screams, “This is finals!” and we’re sent head-over-heels down the well to our deaths. We wake up startled in the darkness of our rooms, hearts pounding, cold beads of sweat trickling down the sides of our scalp, and we wonder: “How am I going to pull this off? Am I really going to get an ‘F’ in statistics? My life is over.” This is what we tell ourselves before we curl around our pillows and try not to think about it.


The struggle is real, my friends. But in reality, our lives won’t end due to finals (unless we overdose on Adderall or caffeine or both), our loved ones won’t banish us for bad grades and in a hundred years when we’re all dead, history won’t recall our transcripts or our grade point averages.

Plus, things could be worse. You could come home after work to find the sewage line backed up, that urine and feces flood your entire apartment in little whirlpool patterns. Right now, you could get call from your crazy ex-girlfriend Jennifer who’s sobbing so hard you can’t quite make out what she’s saying. Until you do, until you hear the two words every young man fears above all others: “I’m pregnant.”

Worse, Christ could return today and f**k up everybody’s plans with his whole apocalypse thing. Then you’d have to go explain to God why you stopped attending church, why you watched that weird porno that one time and why you broke almost all of the Ten Commandments.

We could get news that a massive asteroid the size of Pluto is hurtling towards Earth at thousands of miles an hour and that there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

You could contract the first strand of a super virus that melts your organs to mushy bags of plato and goes on to exterminate the entire human race. A never-before-seen species of parasitic worm could crawl under your skin and lay eggs in your brain. Those eggs could hatch and the worm’s offspring could begin devouring your memories, slowly giving you dementia until you die a drooling vegetable. This is how bad your life can get.

It’s easy to forget that moments are fleeting, and while A’s, B’s, C’s and so on seem crucial at this specific juncture, they are not.  Grades are arbitrary letters made up by academics to force you to do your work. Grades don’t determine your intelligence level or your ability to work hard. They’re not an indicator of creativity or success. They are not a descriptor of who you are.

Years later, you’ll look back on the “F” you got in stats and laugh at yourself for procrastinating and neglecting your homework for fun nights at the bar. The point is, don’t worry so much, everything will turn out OK. Nothing is static. Take a breath. And when you’re hyperventilating an hour before your test, just remember: Things could be a hell of a lot worse. In fact, you could be one of the poor saps who dreams about going to college, of worrying about grades and finals but are unable to do so because of a lack of money, time or resources.

Don’t take finals for granted. Others would kill to be in your shoes. Others would kill to have your nightmares. Remember that you’re one of the lucky ones who gets a chance to make something out of yourself no matter how stressful that process may be. Good luck with finals.

Collegian Columnist Paul Hazelton can be reached at or on Twitter @hazeltonpaul.