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The Term End Sprint

By Amy Nielsen

That moment you realize you have not only hit the sophomore college slump, but that it exactly coincides with exam week, presentation week, new client week, travel week, new sport season kickoff and husband on extra double shifts week.

Yeah. That week.

I already feel like I haven’t slept and it’s not even Monday yet.

The only saving grace is that the public school system is on spring break this week here so my homeschooled older girl doesn’t have swim practice on top of this all.

Somewhere in there I am supposed to fit in at least two medical visits for myself. I’ve been not so well lately and my medical team is working up a possible new diagnosis to add extra chaos to my existence. This means adding at least one day-long procedure into this mix. Not gonna happen.

It’s times like this, when I am recovering from a medical flare, when every single appointment seems to need to be on the same day, when I have already written 15 pages on the first five questions of a 10-question take home exam, when even the set in stone ever wobbly military schedule rears its ugly head, that I realize - I got this.

I have a plan. I have time. I have the intestinal fortitude to do what it takes to make each project this week be the best work I can provide at this juncture. I am not shrinking from the challenge. Rather it is buoying me up to greater heights of productivity and work that surpasses my norm. I am working this tool box of chaos quenching tricks I have gathered in my time on this planet like an octopus with an escape plan.

This is not to say I enjoy working under pressure.

Ok, I lied. I’m supposed to say that I don’t like to work under pressure. That it kills me and that I wish I had it less crazy.

Actually, I do. I love it. I love the pace, the drive, the dedicated focus that this kind of hard core, crazy living requires. I thrive on it. It is also the part of me that loses people very quickly as I go farther down the rabbit hole into the caterpillar’s world of the last throws of a deadline.

I can’t stay here for long. It is not really all that healthy to be working this hard, for anyone. But like any training, like any coaching situation, and learning environment that stretches you – that teacher asks you to sprint at some point. It builds up reflexes. It sharpens the focus. It shines glaring lights on shortcomings and weaknesses.

It’s no different in academia. This end of term insanity is all about learning to work in the hardest conditions you will face. It’s the sprint at the end of the marathon. It’s learning if you really have the need to put in every effort possible.

Now, in this final week stretch of the term, with everything barreling down on me like that proverbial freight train, I feel like I am not only managing, but thriving in a way I haven’t in decades. I have always been a project junkie. I was a theater designer for a while, and then I did special events. I enjoy having a new focus and a whole tool box of solutions to creatively toss at it under the pressure cooker of a short deadline and meager budget. That budget in this case is my aging body’s ability to bounce back after an all-nighter spent with doctored caffeine and power point slides. Or not.

I have spent a large amount of time over the last few years working very hard to not be in this overdrive, break neck pace all the time. I have worked to deepen my well of peace and stamina so I don’t end up burning myself out when I light the candle at both ends – with a blow torch. I learned to not allow the chaos to become disordered.

The mind has more tools and tricks than ever before, the body is working on its second wind, and the clock is ticking. I have exams to write, presentation scripts to edit, client materials to gather, and kids to feed once in a while.

Bring it on, I got this. With the peace and grace and stamina no twenty-something can touch.

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