It’s that time of year again. The snow maybe-possibly-perhaps starts to melt, crowded bars boast rowdy hockey fans who cheer on the only Canadian NHL team in the running, and children run outside in mud slicked parks because their parents really need to finish their taxes and they can’t procrastinate concentrate with little Lego pieces being thrown around the hallway. And then there’s you, at home, aggressively biting off the hollow ears of a chocolate bunny, purchased at half-price from the nearest Wal-Mart. Why the comfort eating? Because “that time of year” translates as finals and you’re really starting to wonder why you ever listened to your parents about going to University.
As you silently thank commercialism for turning a two thousand year old religious celebration into an excuse to sell adorable farm animals made from shitty milk chocolate, you wonder if anyone else can really appreciate just how much work you have to do over the next few weeks. The answer is yes. The fair folk who manage this great snowy country aren’t all that different from you. Here are the top 10 ways that studying for finals is just like running Canada:
1. Nothing Gets Done Until Term is Almost Over
I know this. You know this. And, though they won’t admit it, your teachers know this too (why else would everything be due the exact same week?). There’s something about the seemingly endless length of thirteen week semester that causes everyone to say, “well, I’ll have time to do that later,” even though they patently don’t. Magnify this by a factor of sixteen and you have the four year term of a Canadian politician. I hardly need to explain what kind of procrastination happens there. You can probably just look out your window and see for yourself.
2. You Know That Sometimes it’s Better to Just Give Up and Have Fun (the YOLO Mentality)
There comes a time in most students’ academic careers—usually after a night spent counting Fibonacci numbers instead of sheep to fall asleep—when you realize that Riemann’s differential equation isn’t likely to crystallize in the near future. And when that moment comes, you can either fail and cry about it, or you can fail and go have a bloody great time. Face it, your career isn’t going to unfold exactly the way you want it to, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a damn great backup plan. Being suspended from school due to academic infractions can be just as pleasant and freeing as being suspended from the Canadian Senate, and our favorite ex-parliamentarian, Patrick Brazeau, has shown us the way to true second-best bliss. If at first you don’t succeed, head over to your local strip club. Who knows, they might be in need of a manager. And if they don’t care about a criminal record, they certainly won’t care about your academic record.
3. Dividing the Workload: What Do You Need to Do and What Can You Pretend to Do?
Face it, some subjects aren’t for you. While “Ethics of Video Game Culture” sounded like a great class when you made your schedule, you didn’t realize that syllabus entailed actual school work instead of 26 hours of playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on N64. As it turns out, the course is about actual ethics and now you need to figure out what Kant and Descartes were on about when they started talking philosophy. Lucky for you, exams are not about what you say or how you say it; they’re about what the prof wants to hear. Kind of like politics, only it’s the politicians saying the magic words to sway the minds of the masses. So hop onto the party line and go learn the book (not the Conservative Handbook, mind you, that’s full of crap).
4. You Feel Like a Broken Record
There are only so many times you can read your class notes out to your cat before you get claw marks down your arms for being an annoying prick who doesn’t understand that two consecutive meows means “bring me more food”, not “read me that great chapter about the fall of the Roman Empire.” Maybe that’s why, press conference after press conference, MPs say the same thing over and over and over and over and over again. But hey, hearing your notes read out loud is supposed to cement them in your memory, right? Who are these politicians really trying to convince? Maybe by repeating yourself, you can actually figure out what you meant in that one line scribbled up in the margin. I wonder how well that worked for Charest.
5. Spelling and Simantics Semanticks Semantics
Every semester, during exam review, you inevitably get that one kid in the class who throws up their hand with .15 seconds left to the period and asks, “does spelling count?” And that’s what your teacher, who has better things to do than tell 20 year olds that they need to know rudimentary English, waves off the comment and says, “no, as long as I can read it.” But don’t let your profs deceive you. Spelling can be deadly. After all, if your teacher notices that you misspelled weird as wierd again, you’re probably going to be docked a few points for having sucked at the 6th grade. Better just choose a synonym that you can spell and be done with it.
There’s a political aspect to spelling as well. Does your teacher want you to write color or colour? You might think this is silly, but you might just get a super nationalistic professor who will fail you on the grounds that you’re a cultural turncoat. You’ve seen what happens to Montrealers who speak English in Quebec. Do you really want to see what happens to people who write American in a Canadian University? Justin Trudeau whose statement about Hanukkah/Chanukah prompted a passive aggressive twitter war, can truly say he understands the impact of spelling. Forget about holiday greetings, it seems as though MPs really just wanted to argue about accepted Liberal vs. Conservative spellings. Fun times.
6. It Doesn’t Matter if You Took Math or Not, You Know the Best Way to Fix the Economy
Your high school teachers were right – you do use math every day, especially during the exam period. “If I got 37% and 43% on my first two midterms worth 25% each, how well do I need to do on this exam to pass?” And while you’re performing this simple calculation, you’re wondering why the economy is so shit. (Obviously, that’s all I think about when I crunch numbers.) Nowadays, everyone has the solution to fixing the economy and why not work on this genius plan of yours instead of studying. Hey, if Dreamboy J.T. can run for Prime Minister with a Bachelor of Arts in Literature from McGill, why can’t you figure out the perfect platform while attempting to get your Bachelor of Arts in Literature from McGill? Regardless of what nonsense you come up with, it will probably be better than Pauline Marois’ solution to the problem of Quebec’s $175.5 billion debt – the highest in Canada. Her solution was to blame the bilinguals and you don’t even need math to come up with that one.
7. It’s Not About Doing the Work, it’s About Looking Like You’re Doing the Work
While work is important, appearances happen to be more important. It’s scientifically proven (probably) that, if you look like you’re doing something productive, people will think you’re doing something productive. Why do you think the Minister of Finance buys a new pair of shoes on budget day? And why do you think everyone in the Canadian House of Commons is so well dressed? They’re not doing much, but you think they are because they just look so snazzy. Top that off with the omnipresent briefcases that you think hold important legal documents, but probably only hold magazines and a few issues of The Amazing Spiderman, and the fact that politicians are always rushing away from the press as though they have somewhere to be, you can almost catch yourself wondering why we’re ranked 9th in the list of countries by GDP per capita. Hint: It’s because they look so productive. It worked, didn’t it?
By the time you enter University, you should know this principle backwards and forward. Parents walk in to the room and berate you for being a lazy layabout? Pick up a book and you’ll convince them that you’re actually an academic genius. Got caught staring at that cute barista at your local Second Cup? Pretend you’re contemplating some unresolved existential issue in your class notes from Humanities 101 and she’ll think you’re some new wave intelligent hipster. Now, all that’s left is convincing yourself that you’re actually working and you’re all set for finals!
8. You Need to Tackle the Little Issues Before Focusing on the Big Problems
Related to #7, you all know that some things need to get done before finishing others. In the academically inclined, this feeling usually manifests itself in the form of an if/then hypothesis which has the result of being perpetually inconclusive. “If I clean my desk, then I’ll have more space on which to work and I’ll be more productive.” “If I have a snack now, then my stomach wouldn’t keep growling so loudly that it interrupts Hamlet.” “If I go for a run, then I can clear my head and I’ll have more room for mathematical formulas.” Nope, nope, and nope. Usually, all these pseudo-important distractions are justifications for not doing what you have to do. But don’t let that stop you from baking a cheesecake and exploring the bike path behind your house. After all, it hasn’t stopped parliament. If MPs go for a swim together, then our kids will stop being, in the words of Senator Nancy Greene Raine, “chubby and fat.” If MPs go for a swim, then they will be able to go back to their offices and actually do some work.
9. Your Debates Study Groups Always Devolve Into Shouting Matches
Face it, no matter what program you’re in, there’s always that one person in your study group who isn’t pulling their weight. They’re there to get the answers from the people who actually went to class. If you’re one of the attentive one, you’ll inevitably end up calling this little shit out on their lack of academic integrity. If you’re the mooch, you’ll inevitably end up putting the pretentious nerds in their place. You call them a snob, they call you a liar. They accuse you of being controversial when you should be working, you accuse them of “not respecting the institution of Parliament.” Oh wait, that was from the 2011 Federal Debate between Harper, Layton, Ignatieff, and Duceppe where Harper wrote the whole thing off as “bickering” (so much for democracy!). Moral of the story: don’t put different kinds of people together in a room and hope to get work done.
10. You Make Promises You Know You Can’t Keep
You promise that next term will be better. You promise that you’ll stay on track. You promise that you will improve your grades and your country. You promise to do more for yourself and for those around you. You promise to try. And you will, try, that is, but we all know that after the first week of term, you’ll go back to your usual procrastinating self. Then you just need to sit tight until the next exam period when you can start to panic and cram all over again. On the plus side, you get the brilliant entertainment of watching politicians do the exact same thing after four years of hollow promises and poorly concealed corruption.
There you have it. Next time you’re worried about getting A- on a term paper worth 15% of your final grade (you really thought you aced that thing—you wrote it five hours before the deadline instead of your usual two), remember that you don’t have to run a country. No matter what your GPA is, at least you’re not the one responsible for the room full of monkeys called the House of Commons.