Surviving Finals: A Love Letter to My Friends
Finals are a really rough time. They are for everyone, and they were especially for Black students this semester who had to walk to their finals after death threats had been made to all Black students spotted on campus. The Administration responded with an e-mail and some flexibility around finals if you went through a Dean, and maybe that was helpful it isn't for me to say, but I know for sure many of my friends were ready to get out and get home as soon as possible. However the Administration reacted to these threats, students' concerns around the larger root issues will not have been addressed until the Administration agrees to meet with students to discuss moving forward with ABUSUA's student demands. So this must happen as soon as we are back on campus.
But that's looking ahead. This post is dedicated to looking back to Finals Week itself. This was a particularly rough finals, but finals is always a week period of not sleeping, not eating at regular intervals, not drinking enough water, not leaving the library, maybe smoking too many cigarettes, and general panic and antsy-ness shared among everyone you come across.
This is why we need our communities and chosen families. I would not get through finals let alone semesters without them. So instead of reliving the horror I witnessed or describing the amount of academic work I had to do at the end of this semester (don't worry, I passed), this blog is dedicated to the joy me and my friends managed to foster as the semester wound down and Oberlin grew cold and the adventures we took ourselves on and how we celebrated one another's accomplishments.
A Brief Description of Things We Did the Last Few Weeks of the Semester to Hold Each Other + It All Together:
• During reading period me and a group went to Cleveland for Melt and coffee. Melt is sort of a special go-to spot for many Obies looking to get out of the bubble. I went there for my twenty-first birthday too. They only make grilled cheese--but out of this world grilled cheese combos! At my birthday I had chorizo and potato grilled cheese and this time around I tried the summer chicken with basil and tomato grilled cheese; both are to die for. And their menu is super veggie and vegan friendly. We also got coffee down the street and here are all of our faces:
• We formed a radical study group in the back of Mudd where the rules were:
• Sonya, my housemate of two years, and our friend Edmund, a recent grad friend visiting from Boston, and I went to Kim's and got dumplings for a study break. Nothing is a faster temporary stress-easer than warm fried tofu between soft dumpling skin.
• I spent endless hours in Slow Train and the Local with others buying each other coffee + tea, reminding one another that the papers were going to end, that we are worth more than our productivity, and even though we haven't showered in days, yes, your hair does look killer in that hat.
• At one point we set up shop at the Oberlin Public Library in one of their beautiful study rooms and powered through until just about the last of the work was done. We were fueled by videos of Danez Smith's poetry, 2000s R&B Pandora radio, and whispered affirmations from across the table.
• I had a Last Meal of sorts with Dana and Rewa to celebrate them studying in London next semester. We ate at Mandarin which is the often forgotten cheap gem of Oberlin dining, and their Taste of Nirvana is the best vegetarian faux-meat I've ever had. These two humans have been such incredible friends to me and I do not know how I will do this place without them. At the same time, I'm so excited for the adventures they will have on the London Program and the growing they will do out in the world. This is them not at that dinner because I forgot to document, but at their LAST EVER QUEER BEERS that we went to during reading period:
• Then I had one truly last brunch at Black River with Rewa. Even though we were meeting up over Winter Term, this was the last time we would be in Oberlin together until Commencement--and then who knows when we will see each other next. We reminisced over coffee and smiling sunny side up eggs and I am going to miss her so much, but I know that our friendship will survive long after our time on this campus ends.
• I went on a lot of walks, sometimes through the Arb and sometimes just around the block, sometimes with friends and sometimes alone. Walks are good for processing all the feelings about leaving and being left, starting to say goodbye to this place that has been home for four years, feeling transformed and at the same time not ready to leave, being exhausted and invigorated by the same place at once, and all the weight of growing older and wiser (and from all the papers I was writing).
And that's the thing about finals. Yes they are horrible and yes you will feel horrible and yes we should really re-examine the expectations that the academic industrial complex places on us to demonstrate our learning in some 'productive' manner every four months that is arguably just really bad for our mental health and general well-being, but it is still your time and your Oberlin and your life and you get to make it your own and make the most of it. I loved concluding one wreck of a semester by commemorating with friends and encouraging each other to get through, and I am so grateful to have been able to do it this way. To anyone nervous about making friends at college, don't worry, you will find your people. And to my people, thank you endlessly for carving out this space with me.