Finals, and Why Life Goes On

A woman cloaked in black sits at a metal lab table in a grimy, underground room. A dim light illuminates the bleak room. The woman seems to be mixing a dark green, vile liquid in a beaker. Occasionally, she grabs small vials from the shelves behind her and adds their contents to the beaker, a wicked smile crossing her face with each addition. Finally, she stands up, holds the beaker high above her, and cackles loudly, her ear-piercing voice echoing through the dusty basement. “It’s finished!” she screeches. “My evil work is done!” The beaker has a small label on it. It says, “Managerial Economics Final.”

For anyone taking Managerial Economics, you probably understand what I’m getting at. For anyone who isn’t, Managerial Economics has been the bane of the Wharton freshman class’ existence for the last four months. With confusing homework, unhelpful lectures, and a professor who has well earned the title of The Most Uninteresting Man in the World, it’s been a rough semester for us all. And the above narrative is how I imagine the final for that class is being written.

Obviously, I’m exaggerating. And that’s my point. Sometimes, like today when I’m thinking about the terrible Managerial Economics final I have for tonight, I begin to believe that the test writers are purposely trying to make me fail, that the professors and TA’s who write the finals have a personal vested interest in causing my GPA to tank. When I look at some of the practice materials, it seems like a pretty plausible idea.I imagine them all personified in the crazy witch in the lab, creating the perfect potion of difficulty, confusing phrasing, and unreasonable, irreducible fractions to cause me to fail. I begin to think that its what they want, that taking my Managerial Economics final is about more than me vs. the test; it’s a battle of good vs. evil.

What I’ve realized after having already endured one round of college finals so far, is that this is hardly the case. College finals are impersonal. Half the time, the professor doesn’t know many of the students personally. The problems are created, the tests printed, and the exams administered, without a hidden agenda or any feelings at all.

I’ve realized that if I approached all college exams with the witch-in-the-laboratory mindset, I’d never get a wink of sleep. One thing college has taught me is that classes are just classes. Not doing well on a math exam, if I’ve put my 110% into studying, doesn’t mean I’m “terrible at math.” It might just mean that the problems were especially hard. Not getting an A doesn’t say anything about my personal ability on a grander scale within a particular subject. I’ve also learned that some classes aren’t worth the stress. If I don’t do well on this Managerial Economics final, this class is just a requirement. It doesn’t mean anything in the long run as long as I do well in college overall. It’s better sometimes to realize that your “awesome” is going to translate into a grade of “good enough,” and that it’s okay to accept that.

I remember a conversation with my boyfriend about finals. I kept saying, “I really want an A in math,” but I told him I didn’t think I’d be able to get it because I’d need to do really well on the final. I was frustrated about this. Finally he asked me why I was so set on getting an A instead of being okay with a B+, and my reason was that “I just want to show math I can do it! I just want to show math it can’t beat me.” And the moment I said it, I realized it was the silliest thing ever. Math isn’t a person. Math isn’t going to be in the laboratory, cackling at me when I just get a B. Math isn’t out to get me. This is my last semester of calculus ever. As long as I can do alright on the final, I don’t “need” the A. I will be just fine, and life will go on with a B or a B- or whatever I get. Evil will not triumph over good; the world won’t fall into the hands of the evil masterminds of the calculus department. Really, it will be fine. The same goes for the other thorn in my side, Managerial Economics.

As I prepare for my ME final which is in less than five hours, I’m keeping in mind that it’s just a test. And while it’s not an epic battle of good vs. evil, it might be fun to think of it that way. I’m a superhero, rescuing my GPA from the clutches of the Managerial Economics professors. Who knows, I might even wear a cape.