So last Tuesday I wrote an essay. I wrote it like most other essays, reluctantly and with heavy doses of caffeine. It was only after I was finished that I stopped and realized that it was the last one, the finale, the ultimate essay in my career at U of T. There will never be another, and that must mean something . . .
For some of us, these present weeks have been laden with essays. Endless visits to the library. Pulling all-nighters. (BTW, why do we say ‘pulling’ all-nighters? Any ideas? #allnighter, if you got the answer.) No time for friends, or food, or fun. Just coffee, coffee, coffee, essay, essay, essay!
If you have finished all your essays for the year, give yourself a grand ol’ pat on the back! No, really, do it! It’s very easy to take all the seemingly minor accomplishments of a university career for granted once you are elbow deep in thick of it. But any finished work was surely hard work. It took effort (some) and time (yeah) and consideration (maybe), and any combo of those deserves a moment of congratulation.
I tried to calculate how many essays I have written in my undergrad. But I’m lousy at math. I think it’s somewhere between 60 to 100 essays. That number seems really small when I think about the accumulated mass of time and stress and thought that went into each essay. But I guess memories have a certain weight to them. I’ll stick with a pat on the back.
I try to remember my final essay in first year, for HIS103 on the Spanish Civil War. I stayed up several nights in my dorm at New College. My desk was cluttered with books, orange and yellow sticky notes marking key pages. I was drinking lots of tea in first year (I was against coffee, ha). I stood from my desk and paced. I sat back down. I opened the window. I tried to find that particular passage. I remember calling my dad and he said my essay sounded interesting. I drank more tea, surrounded by books, deep in thought, scouring my sources, page 6 of 15, and trying. I was happy.
An essay is more than a developed argument. An essay is the practice of a kind of critical, analytical, and reflective thinking. An essay is the embodiment of the liberal arts pursuit, to be able to think conscientiously, coherently, with conviction, and cognisant of the consequence of our thought. To this I am happy to say I have finally finished the forceful and at times strongly resented training period, but I think I have emerged all the better for the tutelage, ready to take my essaying habits into the wider world.
But most of all an essay is a vestige of my self, like a Horcrux, but less evil. With every essay—regardless of how I felt at the time, whether I hated it or loved it—I necessarily left a piece of myself in the work. Remembering them, I can recall who I was at the time. I can map the development of me.
Til next time, U of T, stay diamond!