I did something stupid last week. Just for something different. It was so embarrassing, I have to tell you about it (just like I do with all my embarrassing stuff ups, it seems).
I'm studying post-grad at a university in Melbourne, and despite living more than 300km away, I have to travel to this vibrant - apparently very liveable - metropolis to sit my exams (long story for another day).
So when the exam timetable was released 10 days prior to the exam period, I looked up the date of my property law exam and booked a return train ticket for Monday, July 17 (at the thankfully and newly affordable total price of $10 - thanks Dan!). We were scheduled to be chugging out of the station at sparrow fart (6.45am) and I wouldn't get home again until almost 10pm, plus I had to lug my laptop, textbook and notes all the way to campus with a prolapsed disc and inflamed sacroiliac joint! It was set to be a gruelling day.
After madly cramming for the intervening 10 days, around working full-time and with our kids on school holidays (oh the joy!), I ended up doing a panicked all-nighter on the night before E-Day - but at least this reduced the risk of me over-sleeping and missing the damned train.
As an aside, I'm entirely too old for this shit. What 40-something-year-old sane woman is sitting up doing all-nighters, downing energy drinks to stay awake, and panic-cramming? Aren't I meant to be more, I don't know - grown up - by now? Frankly, it's a miracle I didn't give myself a heart attack.
Anyway, I digress.
For once, I wasn't late for something, making it to the train with time to spare, only to discover that I'd managed to reserve my seat in one of those awful four-berth seat arrangements. You know the ones? Where two seats face another two seats? It's the perfect recipe for leg discomfort and social awkwardness trapped in a three-and-a-half hour trip that seems to transcend space and time.
Fortunately (sort of), there was a table fold-out thing in between the two facing sets of seats, so I could at least try to study on my laptop on the way down, and the people I was sitting with seemed equally irritated about the seating arrangements, just as determined to avoid awkward small talk, and shared my frustration with the buffet car closing after only an hour or so of service - right when we'd decided to go and get something to eat.
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We finally pulled in to Southern Cross Station - starving - and I slowly unfurled my hefty form from the rigid seat as my bones cracked into place, causing my back to scream in angry protest and my knees to send thoughts of total resentment to my brain in rapid fire. I didn't even know knees could do that. But the sensations were ... not ... pleasant.
I heaved my backpack with my heavy notes and laptop onto my back and almost made it to the door of the station before needing to stop to rest my aching bones. I trammed it to the university building the exams were being held at, as I hadn't actually been there before despite having been enrolled since 2019, then to Officeworks to print all the pages I needed to print for the open-book exam (told you - panic-cramming).
By the time I made it back to the university building, I still hadn't eaten, and I was about ready to drop, but coping, knowing that I got to sit for a little while at least as I tried to remember all the things I was sure I'd forgotten.
Only to discover that my name wasn't on the list.
Not to worry, they said. They'll sort it all out for me. The staff were wonderful, but my mind was racing. How could I not be on the list?
Well, it turns out that there were two property law exams that week and I'd shown up for the undergrad one. Not only had I gone through all that for nothing, but I had to do it all over again on Wednesday.
Needless to say, regional students face all sorts of study issues that go beyond what most people would think of. It's not easy. But at least the train fare's cheap now!
- Zoë Wundenberg is a careers consultant and un/employment advocate at impressability.com.au, and a regular columnist for ACM.