When you’re writing it, you’re just going along, keeping your eye on the clock like any other exam. You take your breaks to stretch, look out the window – seeing the sunshine and how soon enough you will be able to walk outside. The time is passing slow, but it still feels like you’re going to run out of time. It’s a metaphor for your whole degree, really.
When you think you’re finished, you read and reread and triple checked that you’ve answered all the questions. There’s not much more to do after that. Tucking the question sheet in the front cover of the booklet, you march up to the front of the room and turn in your exam, signing the attendance and thanking your professor and wishing them a good summer.
When you’re exiting the exam hall, you turn your phone back on to text your mom “It went really well!” Except this time you turn it on and before you can message anyone, there was an alarm that went off “Pick up paper.” Oh, right. Walking through the quiet hallway to the department office, you pick up WiFi. 16 likes on Instagram? What did I even post? Rereading the caption you wrote earlier that day: “About to write my last exam of this degree” Last exam? That was it?
When the elevator opens, you’re hoping there’s no one standing there because you have this crazy smile on your face and it would definitely freak people out. Trying to compose yourself, and appear like the completed-fourth-year mature student that you are, you round the corner and walk straight into an old professor. Unable to contain yourself you blurt “I just wrote my last exam! That’s it!” Congratulations ensue, handshakes exchanged, and Sudbury summer advice follows.
When you ask for your paper, your professor happens to be standing in the office and tells you it was a great paper. You’re relieved but anxious to read her comments. “Any more studying to do?” “No, I am all finished!” More handshakes, more congratulations. Taking your poster down off the wall, you look at the empty space and ask yourself when you’ll next see this hallway.
When you get to the car, of course your sister wants to go for ice cream to celebrate. You then call your mom, call your dad, text all the friends who messaged you at 2:13 when you were already scribbling away everything you knew about ideology and semiotics and shot reverse shot sequences. “High five! Hug! Beer chug!” “YAAAAAY! Congratulations!!!! You did it!!!” You check Facebook: “So very proud of you!” “Love it! Congratulations!” “Love you! See you soon!”
When you realize, though you subconsciously knew it already, that you have incredible people in your life and people can be genuinely happy for another person’s accomplishments.
When you realize that all the tears, calls home, tubs of ice cream, rough drafts, Skype editing sessions, nights in the library where you had to wave frantically every so often to get the lights to kick back on, database searches, 3ams fueled only by Toppers and coffee, chocolate fondue, all those things – they were worth it. And if you could do it all over again, you wouldn’t change a thing.