I could feel my thumb throbbing as I penned down the final sentences of my essay, providing what was hopefully a fitting conclusion to twenty-one pages of crazed scribbling. I’ve never been a quick writer, for I always favoured precision over speed. However, to complete the grueling History paper within three hours, I had to throw my practice out of the window. A metaphorical one of course, though I wish there was a literal window – through which my script would follow in my escape. Three months ago, when I sat for my first History paper, I fell two pages short of completion. Three months later, though completion was secured, the same lack of confidence overcame me as my script was collected. Though unsettling, I’ll won’t let this issue ruin the three weeks I have to enjoy before receiving my results.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”

The weeks leading up to the promotional exams were tumultuous times for my weary soul. Academic vigour and insecurity, coupled with the stress of disintegrating friendships, filled my plate with more than I could handle. The issue was further compounded by a lack of sleep, which often left me irritable and disgruntled. Furthermore, a mere three days away from the examinations lay my birthday. People often write off the importance of birthdays, saying that they’re mere opportunities to satiate the celebrant’s desire for attention. That may be true, but birthdays, at least to me, hold far more meaning.

A birthday celebration reminds people that they mean something to others, and that they’re appreciated. Life can be lonely, and affirmation can be a painful pursuit. What is wrong with sprinkling a little love unto someone’s life? You never know the difference it could make. It’s safe to say that I didn’t expect a party. After all, with the examinations being a hair’s breadth away, time was a valuable commodity. Imagine my surprise when balloons were thrust into my hands and a cake set before me. Holding back tears of joy was never so difficult. Thank you, my dear friends, for a memory that’ll always have a big place in my heart. This, however, was only a brief respite from the storm that was to come.

Having trudged through the year with as minimal an effort as possible, the enormity of the situation in hand struck me like a sledgehammer to the gut. I had to compress and devour an entire year’s worth of content in three days. Glancing through the required knowledge was already a challenge,  much less committing them to memory. I chugged black coffee by the gallon in valiant attempts to keep awake, and snacked till my belly cried for mercy. Some lose their appetite when they’re stressed, but in my case, anxiety only serves to whet it. Yet, as quickly as the onslaught on my well-being began, it ended. The effect of having the entirety of the examinations over the course of three days is that there’s no time to ponder over previous papers – you’re whisked on to the next before you can even blink.

Despite the overwhelming odds against me, the journey was never lonely. My schoolmates gave me the emotional support I needed, and the physical tokens I craved. They were the pillars that kept me from crumbling, and still are. If I was a seed when I first started my college education, I’m now a towering tree. Their support is to me what water and sunlight is to plants – desideratum for growth. These are the people that I’ve grown to love and treasure, and I hope with all my heart that we’ll always remain as united as we are today. The race is lengthy, and sometimes even torturous. The light at the end of the tunnel might seem beyond reach, but I’m sure we’ll finish strongly and as one, no matter how this story might end.