Here is a reenactment of my microbiology exam that I just wrote:
I flip over my exam, write my student number on each page, take a deep breath. I give myself a little pep talk because I did actually study for this exam, and I really did think I knew the material. I read the first question....aaaand cue the crickets chirping in my head. The usual biology related thoughts going a million miles a minute that normally accompany the beginning of a bio final are mysteriously absent. In fact, any thoughts at all seem to be absent. And they don't seem to reappear in the entire time I sat in my chair in the gym; looking blankly as each consecutive question failed to spark any knowledge recollection what-so-ever. I suppose that's a bit of an exaggeration. At one point during the exam, the knowledge of the pile of dirty laundry sitting in a heap in my room was recollected and so I scribbled a note on my hand reminding me to wash it when I got home. Eventually, after an hour or so of grasping at straws and hating my life, I came to the conclusion that there was just nothing else going on up in my brain and that was not going to change by sitting here surrounded by stressed out students scribbling furiously everything they ever learned about anything even related to each question. I did however notice that the guy across the aisle from me had really awesome shoes on.
As much as I would love to say that this has never happened to me before, I can't. In fact, I feel like most exams go somewhat like the above, but normally (thankfully!) to a lesser extent.
I normally get decent marks, not because I'm actually smart, but because I try really hard. In the end, I'm coming to realize that it's this process of trying hard that is actually my downfall when it comes to finals. I normally rock assignments and midterms but then bomb finals. It's actually quite frustrating. By the time finals roll around, I am so exhausted and burnt out from a semester (or full year) of trying so hard all the time that my brain capacity to absorb anything new is zero, and my ability to focus is comparable to that of a goldfish. If this semester has taught me anything (which according to my exam results, it has not) it's that being a keener can bite you in the bum. In the pre-internship application haste of my first 2 and a half years, I was running around like a crazy person volunteering several times a week, working, stressing over every single mark and basically being a lunatic so that I would have done everything I possibly could to get the internship. Now that I have the internship, I'm so used to doing everything all the time that I haven't really given myself a chance to slow down. And as a result of accumulated stress, fatigue and excessive thinking, my brain is shutting down and refusing to absorb even the slightest morsel of anything. I can't say I really blame it, I've been really demanding these last few years!
This semester, and the plummeting of my grades that has accompanied it, has made me realize (to my dismay) that I am not invincible. I am only one person and there are only 24 hours in a day. Being a keener may seem like a good idea at first, but keeners beware: being too keen is detrimental to your health, social life and brain. That being said, being a keener is kind of like an addiction, one which I will find hard to break. I really am going to try to wean myself off...starting on Saturday. Until then, I have to gently coax my brain into learning just a few more things for my final 3 exams of the semester. Maybe if I talk really nice to it it might reluctantly comply.