Soundtracking: Midterms

Tuesday, October 31, 2017 - 1:32pm


Illustration by Emily Hardie


Midterms. The first sign that your semester is heading down the toilet real quick. It’s like if you were going down a slide but as you start your descent, you smack your head on the bar and just tumble down the slide, lying in a wood chip pile of lost GPA points and self-pity. Every time you say you’re going to duck, but every time you are sadly mistaken.

This semester, I was optimistic. I was hopeful. Like a third grader stepping up to bat at their first little league game, picturing that ball sailing over the fences as the crowd cheers their victory lap, I thought success was bound to come my way. Good thing many strikeouts were in my future to bring me back down to Earth.

I don’t know why, but in the first month of the semester, I kept saying I wanted the work to hit me already. I was uncomfortable with how little the workload was stressing me out. I wanted the semester to bodyslam me into submission like it inevitably always does. I can’t explain why this was the case but suffice it to say, I regret every sentence now.

It’s 11:47 p.m. the night before one of my exams. After finishing some other assignments also due tomorrow, I sit staring at my laptop, prominently featuring a study guide file on Canvas. If you look into my eyes, the lights are on, but clearly nobody's home. I’m more focused on the clock in the right-hand corner of the screen. 11:48. 11:49. It takes every moral fiber in my body to not pull up some Vine compilations and ignore the PDF in front of me for a while. By the time my inner conflict between studying and the remnants of long-deceased Vine is resolved, 11:53 has rolled around. It’s time.

“Sometime Around Midnight” — The Airborne Toxic Event

Working my way through the guide, every concept from lecture on the study guide hits me with more and more force, and my confusion responds accordingly. The professor stressed about 28 times each lecture how this study guide is just a starting point and should not be the sole extent of my studying efforts. Seeing as though it is now 12:32 a.m., my eyelids are already staying closed for longer when I blink, and the exam is at noon tomorrow, this will be the extent of my work prior to the test.

As I begin to stare off into space, I come to terms with the fact that this is my fault and my fault alone. No one came into my life and forced me to prioritize looking at the course catalog for hours on end instead of getting a head start on studying. No one offered me life everlasting to procrastinate this much. The only person I can directly blame for this entire situation is Matt Harmon and that dweeb is about to get a strongly worded letter after this hour and a half trainwreck tomorrow.

Hours of studying roll by and suddenly it’s 4:00 a.m. and I’m still wearing a “#1 Grandma” sweater and jeans. I check my beard to make sure I didn’t wind up spending twenty years staring at that study guide. I don’t want to look like Tom Hanks in “Castaway” at this point in my life.

As I head to my room and my head hits my pillow, thoughts of this exam tomorrow fade out of my mind. No sense in stressing during my sleep. I set my alarm for 9 a.m. tomorrow to get a full breakfast and study a little more before noon. Everything fades and my worries melt away.

“Forget About Life” — Alvvays

The sun washes over my covers as my eyes open. That’s weird that I woke up before the alarm, seeing as though I was up pretty late. Oh well, I’m not one to argue with a good thing. I check my phone.

11:45 a.m.

Legit end me now.

I throw my blanket off as fast as I can, manage to pull my pants up without tripping over myself and eating the floor, grab my backpack with two #2 pencils for the scantron and a pen for the short answer section, and book it out the door with the speed of a taxi in a movie when the passenger yells “get me to the airport and step on it!” If any two-ton vehicle wants to become really good friends with my body right now, I would gladly accept the offer.

“Fast Car” — Tracy Chapman

Sweating, shoulders aching from my backpack straps bouncing up and down and slamming into my back, I basically burst into the lecture hall at 11:58 a.m. People have been slowly trickling in, studying like the responsible students they are and here I am, a shitshow of a person who doesn’t even deserve a study guide.

I owe my life to whoever created Michigan time.

I grab a spot in a random row, my friends from the class spread out around the room, looking at each other and making expressions that say more than words. If I had to guess, I’d say most of them were thinking “What is this exam, and why is Matt sweating so much?”

For about a year and a half in high school, I walked around with a penny bouncing around in my shoe. My great-grandma always said if you find a penny heads up, put it in your shoe and good luck will come your way.

Where’s my penny now?

“Lucky Penny” — JD McPherson

I fill out the scantron’s front page with my full name. Mathew doesn’t fit in the first name boxes, so I have to drop the W. For all intents and purposes, Matthe Harmon is about to bomb this bad boy. I feel bad for Matthe right now. I bubble in the key number and the rest of the sheet and open the exam.

I didn’t know I was taking an exam in a foreign language today, but that’s rad. I know my professor said the study guide isn’t all that will be on the exam, but why did she have to be telling the truth? Some of these terms and questions I have never even seen before. Call me MF doomed.

An hour and a half passes before you can say “I love Reggie the Campus Corgi” and about 75 percent of the class takes the full time like me. In the last five minutes, almost everyone succumbs to peer pressure and rises out of their seats to turn their tests in as a collective. Strength in numbers, I guess.

We all look at each other, never having felt more united over a travesty like that before.

“Crew” — GoldLink

Flash forward to two weeks from that fateful day. I’m sitting in the dining hall on my phone when I get an email from my GSI.

Subject line: Matt Exam Issue

He had mentioned something a few days ago in section about how grades for the midterm aren’t out yet because some people mixed up their key numbers on the scantron so they had to recalculate some scores. Who in their right mind would mix up a 1 and a 2? How in hell could you even mess up that badly?

In the wise words of Jeff Goldblum from “Jurassic Park,” “Life, uhhhhhh, finds a way.”

Message: “Dear Matt, you mixed up your key numbers on your scantron. From the first grading of your multiple choice section, you got 21 out of 80 points.”

“Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” — Prince

I look up from my phone, my jaw almost smacking into the table below. What did I ever do to deserve this life? Who did I wrong? Did I accidentally upset some witch or force beyond my control that decided to make it their life duty to make sure Matt screws up in every possible way? It must have been Matthe that filled the scantron out wrong. Matt or Matthew would never do that but Matthe probably wants to see me fail.

I keep reading. “We assumed this was a mix-up and regraded your midterm. This will not happen again if you mess up your scantron on the final. BTW, you did well on your midterm.”

“Sweet” — Brockhampton

Matthe, you done good, kid.