Welcome to Kansas.
Welcome to campus.
“You have two weeks to save your semester, let the games begin!” Memes like this are plastered all over the internet, it seems people feel that memeing about saving the semester is the solution. But with just one more set of exams to decide not just the semester, but the whole year, one fourth of your engineering education, possibly your career and by induction your life, memeing is certainly not the way to go. But no pressures.
The time has come to look back on the year and the mistakes you’ve made to land yourself in this situation. The time has come to try and redeem yourself for all those late nights you spent chatting or watching movies. The time has come to decide to make that dreaded journey to find the Yellow Brick Road. It is a long and arduous journey, filled with a thousand and one reasons to give up. But like the original travelers in the Land of Oz, you must keep going until you finally get what you really want and achieve your dreams and aspirations. It is not a journey for everybody and only the strong make it till the end. Some slack off and get drawn off the Road by a field of poppy or the witch in the north, while others stay focused even in the face of great distractions and go all the way.
There are three types of slackers: The pessimist, the optimist and the realist.
The pessimist slacker would say “Ah, no matter how much I study, I’m not going to do well, ‘cuz I’m stupid compared to all these guys…. Might as well enjoy myself”.
The optimist slacker lives by the motto “Aal izz well”. He feels everything will turn out alright in the end, simply by sheer force of belief. He’d say “I’m the smartest guy I know; I just don’t show it often. I deserve to do well, so it’ll be fine”.
At end of the day, neither is proven right and neither the pessimist nor the optimist end up doing anything before the exam.
Then there is the realist slacker. He relaxes early on but as the exam gets closer, the realist knows what’s going to happen. He knows how much he needs to do and how much he can do and he will try his best to do as much as he can in the time remaining, all the while knowing he’s fighting for a lost cause.
But the most common kind, and perhaps the most dangerous, is the cross between a realist and an optimist. He relaxes in the beginning because “Everything is going to be alright”. Then he realizes that he needs to work. So, objectively, he chalks out a game plan…. “I have 15 days, 6 chapters a subject remaining, that means 24 chapters in total, so if I do two chapters a day, I should be fine” He starts off by doing two pages on day 1.
“I have 23 and a half chapters to go in 14 days”
And so this goes on until finally, he realizes he cannot finish all he needs to do and he goes back to waiting for season 6 of Game of Thrones.
This is most of us, most of the time. We do a half-baked job thinking we can do it all, while in truth, we spend more time thinking that we can do it than actually doing it. Some of us are very organized in doing this. We spend hours, sometimes days planning out schedules to study for the exam, only to realize we’re behind schedule because we were too busy making the schedule. Some of us are a bit less organized, but are trying hard enough. We wake up and plan what we’re going to do for the day…… blink and before you know it, oh look, it’s time to sleep again. Meanwhile, there are some of us who are so disorganized, they need to be woken up on the day of the exam and told “Hey, there’s an exam today. You wanna write it?” And that’s when they open their books. True story.
But for every person who gives up, there is someone going that extra mile, because they can. Well, maybe not for every person, more like for every ten people who give up, but you get the idea. These people are the gladiators of academics. They are our heroes and our villains. We look up to them, envy them, wish that they were as bad as you. They seem untouchable by distractions such as friends and sleep and video games. We look on in awe and surprise every time we see them doing something normal like chilling at Bru or playing COD with the wing. Some of us hear only stories of their greatness, whispers in the wind of how hard working they are.
Well guess what? They come in three types too: The pessimist, the optimist and the realist.
This pessimist gladiator also thinks he’s good for nothing. He too believes that no matter how much he studies, he won’t do well. But the difference is that this pessimist is trying to defeat his ‘destiny’. He will study and study and study and then study some more because in his mind, he’s fighting giants to get to the top, and if he tries hard enough, maybe he will get close. But when he does get close, he doesn’t believe it. He goes into denial, looking only the distance he didn’t make and that drives him further, to go back and study again.
At the other end of the scale is the optimist gladiator. Like the slacker optimist, he too believes everything is going to be fine; he too believes he’s probably the smartest guy in the room. The difference is that he’s probably right. This optimist will take ‘lite’ until the night before the exam, study straight through the night, doing what would have taken us mortals hours, and in a couple of minutes, ace the exam, come back and sleep like nothing ever happened.
And finally, right in the middle of the scale is the realist gladiator. He starts running right at the beginning of the semester and never once slows down. He keeps a steady pace, knowing exactly what he needs to do and doing it with clinical precession. And much like the realist slacker, this is a very rare species.
However, once again, the most common kind of gladiator, and the most dangerous to the class average is the cross between the realist and the optimist. These people start out slow, because “Aal izz well”, mingle with the mortals, camouflaged, and enjoy life for a while. Then, bit by bit, as the exam gets closer, they gradually up their pace of studying until there is little difference between them and the gladiator pessimist. And they do it so gradually that no one notices until the exam is over and the big red number comes up on the answer sheet. They not only pull the class average just out of your reach, but they also give you a false sense of security by saying they are not studying either. They are. Just not when you’re looking.
All this being said, it’s one thing knowing that you have to follow the yellow brick road to attain your goals, and an entirely different matter getting through that journey victorious and unscathed, no matter what kind of gladiator or slacker you are. Whether you’re the Scarecrow, wishing you were more intelligent, the Tin Man, ruing your lack of feelings, the Cowardly Lion, wishing you were brave enough to ask for help when you need it, or Dorothy herself, just finding a way to escape it all and go home; no matter what it is you want, you will find a way to attain it. For although these men may seem invincible and an unattainable standard, the truth is, there is a dormant gladiator in each and every one of us. Life and experience will awaken it when the time is right, and when it awakens, nothing can stop us from achieving our dreams.
I don’t know about you, but my gladiator needs five more minutes. Until we meet again on the Yellow Brick Road, farewell.
– Adarsh Salagame