Final exams make me CRAZY. The brain wheels start churning at hyperspeed the second I come back from Thanksgiving break and get all my assignments (in art school, most finals are huge projects instead of written exams). And by the weekend before everything’s due (i.e., last weekend)…wooooof. I reach a soda-fueled stress delirium, and I don’t do too well with carbonated bevs, so I’m burping every other minute. Just burping across the stress plain.

Am I sounding sufficiently nuts now? Does it help that I just forget to wash my hair this time of year?

The downward spiral proceeds like this:

1. When I’m working at home, attempts at productivity end in distraction. Doesn’t matter whether it’s the internet, making playlists, organizing my closet, or staring longingly into the fridge, wishing pizza would appear. Honestly, sometimes pizza does appear, but it’s my roommate’s pizza. Then life becomes that much more miserable. Fuck that pizza.

2. Even if I dutifully wake up at like seven every morning, that DOESN’T MEAN I’ll automatically do my homework. At least twice last week I spent the entire eight hours before class on the couch, eating cereal and getting lost in the black hole of the internet. And when the internet gets boring, I enter the endless cycle of nail biting. I’m a lifelong nail biter, and I can go insane OCD on any raggedy edges. It’s a weird tic that obviously flares up during times of stress/pressure/sucking of the soul such as finals. The tips of my fingers can’t poke anyone anymore. They’re just the soft stubs of my fingertips. That is how short my nails are. Gross. I couldn’t scratch you if I tried. Like a declawed kitten. One sad, declawed kitten that can only swat. Swat swat.

3. I’m at school right now, and I just was trying to get some work done, as my first final is due tomorrow at three. Then a pigeon flew into the large, open main building and, two hours later, it has not left. It’s a thrilling development; I simply can’t take my eyes off the thing. He’s lost in a world of confusion! Just like me! Ugh, really relating to this pigeon. Yes, I have spent two hours staring at a street bird run into a glass window. This saga must be paid very close attention to.

4. I’m very close to losing it. My group projects in particular are driving me totally bonkers. It’s so hard to work on artistic projects with other people, since everyone is always so opinionated, myself included. My only mechanisms for coping are to create playlists that consist solely of eight-minute psych songs and old-school Beyoncé, and put in my headphones and hide in my brain. What does that even mean? I don’t know. I just don’t know anymore. Hide in my brain?!

5. When my best bud and I are working together in the studio and anxiety is running high, we have competitions to see who sounds most like this girl. He’s a dude, so I always win. Sometimes this is the only thing that gives us any relief during this stressful time.

To be honest, though…I secretly kind of enjoy the whole thing. Walking down the hallways where everyone’s blood-sweat-tears work gets displayed is super exciting! There’s also a weird sense of solidarity during these few weeks. I love having an excuse to be as weird as possible in public, to act totally cracked out in the middle of the hallway and not care because “hey, it’s finals!” Everyone else is feeling the same way, and acting just as strange! I wasn’t the only one entranced by that pigeon, let me tell you. I saw some kid cooing at it, a breadstick in his hand.

Enjoying the pain of finals is masochistic, but I think anyone who tries to do what they truly love has to be at least a little masochistic. If you go after your biggest dream, you have to sacrifice time, money, or, as in this instance, sanity. I see finals week as a privilege—twice a year I get a chance to prove my worth. It’s painful and it turns me into a cracked-out zombie Beyoncé addict—but it’s worth it, you know? I complain about it a lot, and average two nervous breakdowns around each semester’s end, but it comes with the territory of working hard at something I love to do. And when it’s all over, I get to go home and see my mom and dog and hide for a month.

It’s worth it. It’s worth it. It’s worth it. That’s what I keep telling myself.