Cough, cough, it’s essay season

This time of the semester, people around me start disappearing into their apartments or the libraries, saying “Oh, I can’t have dinner with you tonight. It’s midterm season.” Or “sorry I haven’t really been on top of things. It’s midterm season.” For those of you who have not yet experienced college, midterm season is like the holiday season in every respect, except instead of getting presents, you get to sit in a cramped desk-chair with 500 other students and face multiple choice questions, “short” answer questions, and debilitating panic attacks. You would expect nothing less from a UC Berkeley class.

If midterms were a contagious flu, then as a student enrolled in five humanities courses, I’ve got to battle a different strain of the disease: the essay. College papers don’t mess around. Each one takes up at least 30% of your grade and they just keep coming. I’ve barely turned one essay in for English on Monday, and the next day I’m already choosing new paper topics for Chinese.

Essays are like a constant, raging fever. Every time I think I have free minute, my unfinished paper assignment leaps into my mind, screaming “Write me! Write me!” I almost miss the high school days when all I had to do was stare at diagrams, stuff them into my head for a few hours, and promptly forget half the material merely hours after the test.

I have ambivalent feelings about papers. There are days when my fingers fluently type out a string of kick-ass arguments and eloquent prose. These are the days when my GSI says, “Think of the essay as your chance to demonstrate how smart you are,” and I get a warm fuzzy feeling in my chest that urges me to run home and start up Microsoft Word right away.

Then there are days when every sentence I write is a shallow observation that I know I will sadly delete in a couple of days. These days, the professor called for six pages, and I run out of smart observations at two. Wow, I’m the worst writer to ever grace the Comparative Literature major.

I do realize that I spend more time complaining about essays than actually writing them. If I had any advice for myself, it’s to shut up and start writing. Shut up and start coding. Shut up and start memorizing random facts for the next midterm. Stop complaining about how cruel your professor is, unless he schedules a midterm and a paper deadline within the same week (I’m looking at you, Chinese professor). Every spare minute you spend on your paper will bring it closer to completion. And yes, it will get better and better.



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