Final Exam Nightmares

Final exam nightmares.

It’s the first week of December, which means college students everywhere are either preparing for or taking final exams. Our daughter is among those students preparing. Her first college final exam is Monday. Oh, how I remember the days leading up to those first college finals my freshman year.

I was a different person then. I carried more anxiety. I had not yet learned that worrying about something doesn’t change it. My parents used to tell me 98% of the things we worry about never happen. They also used to tell me that worrying won’t change things. Aside from that, they would tell me, if we prepare properly and turn the rest over to God, we are in good hands. Does it always mean we will succeed? No, but don’t we learn a lot more from our failures than from our successes?

It was after that first semester that I relaxed a little. I stopped worrying so much. Over time, I have become a non-worrier, except where our daughter’s safety is concerned. That’s a whole different level of worry that will likely never change.

Every now and then, though, my brain finds a way to remind me of the stress of college finals. I go to bed perfectly happy, but I wake up in a sweat, with an elevated pulse rate. No, it’s not about our daughter. It’s about me. I wake up in an absolute panic, because I am dreaming that I have just slept through a college final, or that I forgot to take one altogether. I think it’s a pretty common recurring nightmare for people who went to college, but 33 years after graduating? Doesn’t that seem like a long time to still be having that nightmare? No matter how much time passes, it’s still a painful nightmare.

Here’s the funny thing: when I was a junior in college, I actually did sleep through a final. It was my Spanish oral final. I had been up late studying the night before and knew I had the Spanish oral exam at 10:00am. Every student in the class had signed up for a 10-minute time slot, and that was mine. I feel sure I had set my clock, but I guess I set it wrong, or maybe I turned it off without really waking up. Whatever happened, I slept through the exam. I woke up at 10:30, when a friend came into my room, and I immediately realized what had happened. I had slept in a sweatshirt. I have no idea what kind of pants I slept in, but probably lightweight sweats. I jumped up, put on shoes as quickly as I could, and ran out the door without even brushing my teeth or my hair. I just ran.

Of course, the exam was about as far from my room as it could possibly be, but I ran. I ran as fast as I could and said a prayer that my teacher would still be in the room when I arrived. Additionally, the testing was taking place on the third floor of the building, so after running all the way to the building, I had to run up the stairs to the third floor…and all the way to the end of the hall. When I arrived, there were a couple of students sitting on the floor outside the classroom, waiting their turns, I suppose. I hardly noticed them as I pushed the door open and saw my professor sitting with another professor in front of the student who was testing at the time. Yes, it was rude for me to burst in, and frankly, I was out of breath…huffing and puffing…probably trying to hold back tears. Fortunately, I’d had both professors as teachers, one the first semester of junior year and one second semester, and I was on good terms with them. My professor paused the exam and said to me, “It’s OK. Go outside and catch your breath. We will call you in shortly.” Thank the Lord I had a forgiving professor. And thank the Lord I had developed good relationships with both the professors. I had been in their classes in back-to-back semesters. After waiting for a little while, they called me in, and I took my oral exam, passing it with an A. Afterward, hen I returned to my room, my friends who had witnessed my wild departure came in, wide-eyed, and asked how it had gone. I told them to let me brush my teeth and hair first, and I would be happy to give them the details!

Yes, I’m that person who actually slept through a final and lived to tell about it.

That’s not my only recurring nightmare about college, though. I also have a recurring nightmare in which it’s the end of the semester, and I have forgotten to attend a class for the whole semester! Again, I wake up in a sweat after this one too, but this one never actually happened in real life. Sure, I missed some classes here and there, but never a whole semester of class.

Sunday night, I will remind my daughter to set multiple alarms to wake up for her 8:30am exam. I don’t want her to live the nightmare of missing the exam.

And even though I don’t consider myself a worrier anymore, I’m sure I will go to bed Sunday night worried that she will sleep through her exam.

Because I’ll go to bed worried, chances are, I will have my exam nightmare again.

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