University of Wisconsin students are working especially hard this time of year due to the never-ending torrent of midterms, quarrels when trying to find housing and dread when facing the realities that everything they do now has a grand impact on their future, all while the weather and daylight has shifted to the dreariest time of year.
Never one to let the poor and decrepit have a moment to catch their breath, the Devil has been hard at work in the nuanced corners of every student’s life to make sure that a little bit more stress gets added to the deluge.
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In the mornings, he makes sure students’ alarm clocks malfunction in some way to cause them to wake up five minutes late for whatever important event they had planned. The five stages of grief flash across their face as panic grips them before they shout an expletive and rush out the door without showering or brushing their teeth which will ensure the rest of their day feels a bit grimier.
For anyone spared of this panic, the Devil’s trick results in a night of eight hours of uninterrupted sleep that the student still wakes up from more exhausted than they went to bed. Some students will succumb to his temptations of “five more minutes” which always turns into 20, which becomes an hour and so on.
As the day wears on, the Devil enjoys whispering sweet nothings into the ears of insecure students. Freshmen who once were commended by every adult in their life for their intelligence, find themselves faced with a university filled with kids just like them while the course material isn’t the kind where one can half pay attention to lecture and expect an “A.” The Devil whispers to these falling angels they must not have been that smart all along, and the fact that they are struggling now means they will struggle for the rest of their education, so they might as well give up.
There is, however, evidence that the Devil’s favorite whisperings are placing doubts into student’s minds of correct places and times. How often do students arrive at a room where the instructor hasn’t shown up and begin to think, “They said this room, right?” How many students have left for an exam planning to get there at the scheduled time only to imagine on the way, “What if they said it was an hour earlier than I remember, and I’m about to walk in late?” The Devil, in some cases, allows merciful release that the student was right all along, but he still delights in the circles of thought that cause the best kind of pretest anxiety.
Nights on campus allow for new kinds of torment. To the rambunctious crowd on weekends, the Devil loves to pick out the student there who is under the most stress (even for him this is difficult, because that is a task similar to determining which grain of sand is the most sandy) to whisper, “You’re out here partying while you should be studying,” which he lets simmer before adding, “It’s not like studying would’ve helped you anyways.”
After he lets the anxiety turn to depression, the Devil convinces the poor student trapped in their own mind that drinking more will make them forget about what he just told them, and — more often than not — they listen which culminates in a gastrointestinal mess they leave in a stranger’s bed which makes no one in the situation any happier.
More studious individuals who are awake until 2:49 a.m. trying to finish the last parts of an important paper have the gentle temptations, “Just go to bed, you can finish in the morning before it’s due.” Anyone who’s ever heeded that voice knows that tomorrow may arrive on time, but neither motivation nor clear thinking arrive with it.