The Bucket List
By Lauren Vespoli, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, January 25, 2013
I have never pulled an all-nighter for academic reasons. This experience was on my bucket list not because I thought it would be fun, but because I feel like it’s something people do that I haven’t. It’s part of the “work hard, play hard” experience that we love to say Dartmouth embodies. However, after a traumatic brush with sleeplessness last week, I’ve decided that it’s time to cross this one off for good. I’ve discovered I simply do not have the mental fortitude.
To set the scene: trying to live the liberal arts life as much as I can before I become disillusioned by unemployment, I enrolled in a non-major engineering class this term. The class is one of the most eye-opening I have taken, but extremely time-consuming. It’s 1:30 a.m., and my two group members and I are in the Couch lab in Thayer feeling insecure because the foam-core roller coasters constructed by the other groups are making ours seem too short and too simple. We are fraught with uncertainty. Do we go to bed and accept our defeat? Or fight our heavy eyelids and forge ahead? We decide to add another element to the ride. 1:52 a.m.: I place a call to EBAs. Without a medium cheese pizza, I am convinced we, or rather I, cannot go on. 2:15 a.m.: I start having the closest thing I’ve ever had to an anxiety attack as I think about everything I have to do the rest of the week and wonder if it’s worthwhile to lose sleep over building a miniature roller coaster. Meanwhile, real engineers are doing real engineer things around us. One of my group members gives me a hug to “comfort” me, but I know she’s just politely trying to get me to shut up. They are amused that I’ve never pulled an all-nighter before. I’m ashamed. I want to be the wise, mature senior of the group, but my cool is too far gone to uphold that charade. 2:20 a.m.: My brain isn’t working so well on the task at hand—cutting circles out of foam core, so I keep going to look outside and “check for EBAs.” 2:25 a.m.: Pizza finally arrives, huzzah. The grease settles in my stomach like a rock. 3 a.m.: I’m back on the upswing. I follow the orders of my other group members in a zombie-like trance. When was the last time I showered? What day is it? 4 a.m.: The project is questionably complete. But I don’t care. I call the last safe-ride home. (Useful tip: safe-rides stop at 4 a.m.) I am never doing that again.
The next day I smelled weird, spoke nonsensically, and drank so much coffee that my heart was racing but my eyes still ached with exhaustion.
I’d like to raise the following question: when Dartmouth students pull an all-nighter, how often is it legitimately necessary? And how productive can we really be? (That is, without the aid of “study drugs,” which is a topic I could write many more words on. To summarize my opinion: taking Adderall or any other drug without a prescription is cheating.) Are we really that obsessed with perfection? We complain about staying up all night to finish work, but I think in a perverse way, we like it. Why else would we upload pictures of sunrise views from the 1902 Room to Facebook? We always complain about being overbooked but rarely take the time to quit anything. Whining about how many activities you do and how you have no time seems to be a way we establish credibility amongst our peers — street cred for nerds, if you will.
Let’s rethink the logic behind the all-nighter, which goes back to the way we spend and manage our time each day. I’d like to invite you to join me in an exercise: Record how you spend every hour of your day for an entire week. Figure out where exactly it is that your days go to leave you dwelling over work in the late hours of the night.