Avoiding a Total Mental Breakdown in My Final Semester

So it’s week 5 and I’m drowning. Anyone else out there in your final semester? Final year, even? My kindred spirits; you’ll know my pain.

I’ve kind of cruised through uni up until this point. First year was a total breeze; I barely did any readings, assignments were 1,500 words maximum, and my professors treated us as though we had no clue what we were doing (they were right, we didn’t) (I still don’t). Second year was a little bit tougher. I actually had to do my readings to understand the content, lectures got a little more dense, assignments became a little longer, and our professors no longer spoon fed us and rocked our cradles. Even last semester—my first semester of my final year—was relatively cruise-y. I managed to get away with not listening to most of my lectures and skipping a good portion of the readings, totally winging it come assignment time, and coming out the end of the semester having done okay. But nobody prepared me for my final semester.

In high school, I relied pretty heavily on my older brother to impart on me his nuggets of wisdom and sage advice. He’d already gone through the motions and could tell me what to expect. But then we decided to do totally different things once uni rolled around. He set the bar higher than I thought possible by choosing to do a double degree in Commerce and Law. True to my nature, I decided to be a disappointment to my parents and everyone else around me by pursuing the humble Bachelor of Arts. A second gut punch for my parents came when I told them I was planning to major in Sociology (neither of them knew what that was) (I didn’t really know what that was either, but it sounded relatively easy) (to their immense relief, I added on Media & Communications as a second major in my second semester). Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that I was completely on my own when I got to uni. I didn’t have my crutch of an older sibling to lean on for advice, so I had to figure it out on my own; since his degrees take about 100 years to complete, I’ve reached my final semester well before he will.

The first shock of this semester came when I saw how many assignments I have to do. Most of my subjects have had two or three essays throughout the semester, 10% of my grade being dedicated to that pesky class-attendance-and-participation trick. But this semester, I’m barely keeping my head above water with my workload. As well as having weekly readings that span hundreds of pages for each respective subject, I also have weekly quizzes, presentations, group assignments, and essays. I was not prepared. Add that on top of a 2-day-a-week internship and you’ve got yourself a Martha Stewart-worthy recipe for a breakdown, folks. I can only imagine what my mental state would be if I had a job (PS someone please hire me, I have no money).

The second shock came when I realised that I have to start thinking about my future. Now. NOW now. The future is no longer the future; it’s the present. I have to start submitting applications pronto. Do I want to pursue a Master’s degree? Will I even get into a Master’s program? Do I want to apply for work? Will anyone hire me if all I have is a BA? What do I even want to do for a living? Why are companies only hiring copywriters and social media managers? What even is copywriting, really? Am I meant to move out of home as soon as I get a full-time job? Can I bring my dog with me when I move out, or should I leave her at home to wonder why I left and never came back? What is superannuation? Is it normal to cry as often as I do?

So. If you’re wondering, or if you want to prepare yourself for what’s to come, here’s how I’m managing to avoid having a complete and total mental breakdown:

Write stuff down. Simple, but effective. I write down a to-do list each day and categorise it by what needs to be done right now, what needs to be done by the end of the day, and what can wait until tomorrow. It makes everything feel so much more doable (plus it’s just so satisfying crossing stuff off the list).

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Don’t procrastinate. Don’t. Don’t do it. I know The Bachelor is on and you’re promising yourself that you’ll get started on [insert thing that immediately sprung to mind when you read this] after this episode. Get started now. At least have your laptop or book open in front of you while the TV is on. Try to guilt yourself into doing at least some of it. Future you will be so, so grateful.

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Dip your toe in every pool. Or however that saying goes. Don’t know what you want to do after uni? Apply for everything and see where it takes you. If you haven’t been offered a job or accepted into a grad program (or whatever else it is you want to do) by the time you graduate, you’ll simply be in the same position you’re in now, but with one more degree and infinitely less essays to write.

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Coffee. If you’re not a coffee drinker, now’s the time to become one. And if you’re a one-cup-a-day kinda person, it’s time to up the ante.

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