Thursday, 17 December 2009

EndOfTerm = {((x, y), z) : ((N x N) x N) | ((x = fatigue) ^ (y = stress)) --> (z = short-lived relaxation)}

Stress Reduction Kit, originally uploaded by programwitch.

It’s nearing the end of the semester, with just a day go. It’s currently snowing very heavily; as I watch the carefree manner in which the flakes slowly float down, I can’t help but think that this is the perfect way to end the term.

Over the past few weeks, the pressure of it all was starting to take its toll. I had found myself in a constant state of fatigue, stress and anxiety, with a series of consecutive deadlines and assessments looming – so much so, that I’d noticed that it had affected my performance in various simple, everyday tasks. I tried to add simple comments to Java programs, and ended up with numerous errors. I tried to iron a t-shirt, and burned a hole in it (luckily it blends in with the design!). I tried to apply eyeliner, and I ended up poking myself in the eye. I tried to force myself to go to an early class, and I ended up going to the wrong one…in the wrong building…at the wrong time. You get the picture.

Even now, as I write this blog post, I keep pressing Ctrl+K (ie. the shortcut to compile a program) instead of Ctrl+S to save. Due to the excessive amount of programming I’m currently doing, I’m constantly in that frame of mind. It’s gotten to the stage where I’m looking at life completely differently as opposed to a few years ago. A lame example: instead of seeing a weekly shopping list, I’m seeing an array list.

Since completing work for my deadlines, I find myself more at ease, in a state of relaxation. Whilst I’m no longer exerting myself to the point where I’m self-imploding, I’m tending to notice more and more events taking place around me. A few of my peers were grappling with the exercises the morning of a deadline; needless to say, leaving three out of five tasks till the morning of a deadline is never a smart thing to do. I could tell that panic was setting in for them. Inane remarks were flying all over the place – my favourite being: “what’s a mutator? Is it the same as a method, or is it something completely different?!” For those reading this who don’t know, a mutator (and an accessor too) is a type of method in programming. This is, in fact, one of the first things you learn when introduced to Object Oriented programming – it is an extremely simple concept (this is coming from someone who isn’t particularly that strong at programming!) I knew for a fact that like me, these students had a test to take directly after the deadline. Attempting to finish exercises that you don’t even understand before a rapidly approaching deadline is not a good way to prepare for a test.

From this and my own personal experience, I’ve noticed a pattern which has unfurled – we tend to behave at our worst when we’re flustered, and things tend to go wrong when rushed or in a state of somewhat panic. As well as the example above, a prime illustration of this was a fire alarm the other day. You know the drill – everyone stops what they’re doing, gathers a few personal things, and leaves the building. As we not-very-quickly-or-silently left the building, I noticed that a few people had paused halfway down the corridor and went back in the opposite direction in which they had come. There were murmurs of “I forgot my memory stick/mobile phone”. As a student, I can understand the importance of these two items. One is the life-line of personal contacts, and one is a backup representation of an archive of your academic career. Whilst watching the small crowd shuffle backwards, I noticed that they all seemed to carrying quite a few items, such as bags, books, folders, paper etc. 

I later learnt that they were Masters students, and they obviously had a lot on their minds. Here’s me complaining about a few assignments and tests, when these real heroes of academia are silently pushing forward in their struggle to further their knowledge, and perhaps even making a difference in their chosen field.

I’m currently savouring the few moments of tranquillity I have this week. Sure I’ve got exams in January, and three weeks of “vacation”, during which I’m supposed to prepare myself, are going to fly by in no time and I’ll probably be in a state of panic once again, but I’m going to relish this as much as I can.

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