Today was my last day of classes as a Junior in college. Now I just have a week of finals, and then I’ll be completely done with the school year. Even though I’m obviously really looking forward to next Wednesday at about noon when I’ll be finishing my last exam, today is the day that I’ve been counting down to for the last several weeks. In part, that’s because I believe in counting down to the soonest available landmark because, when you’re counting down to something, little numbers are much more motivating than big numbers. (I’m graduating in 374 days, but somehow, that doesn’t seem like such a big deal at the moment.) Anyway, besides that, I actually do tend to enjoy finals week. It’s not that I like final exams or final papers, it’s just that life in general is better during finals week. For example:

1. Study breaks. When you have classes all day and have to cram all of your homework and studying into just a few hours every evening, you can’t really afford to stop for a while to play some computer games or to watch some science fiction or to wander around aimlessly in circles, pondering the great questions of life, human existence, and what caused that discolored spot on the carpeting. Having the ability to take occasional breaks and to use your brain for something besides school is good for you not only because it’s more fun, but also because it’s a stress reliever and it’s good for your mind. You just want to make sure you’re doing something productive with your study breaks and not wasting your time. In the grand scheme of things, I think it’s more important for me to be good at Scrabble than to solve the mysteries of my dorm room carpeting.

2. Sleeping and eating. Once upon a time, I was a small child and had enough time and a flexible enough schedule that I could count on eating three meals a day and sleeping every single night. This is no longer the case. During finals week, though, I have plenty of time for eating and sleeping. The sleeping part actually isn’t such a big deal to me; I never actually grew out of the stage where I hated going to bed, and even now, I’d much prefer to watch science fiction all night than to sleep all night. But the eating thing is a big deal. Food is awesome stuff.

3. It’s an excuse to do things that count as stress relievers. Last night, for example, I had to stay up all night long, so I got a multi-serving bag of M&Ms and ate them at regular intervals throughout the night. It wouldn’t be a good idea to do that every single night, but last night, I was working on several final projects and the M&Ms were totally necessary. Tonight, I think I’m going to stop studying for a while so that I can watch an episode of Dr. Who. I shouldn’t really take out the time for that, but science fiction is an ideal stress reliever, so it will actually make me do better on my exams. Right?

4. We’re all in this together. I’m not really a very social person, and I definitely prefer to study alone, so I tend to really isolate myself during finals, but at the same time, there’s something reassuring about the knowledge that every single student on campus is experiencing the same things I’m experiencing. While I’m worrying about a difficult exam or a paper that just isn’t getting done very quickly, other people all around me are having the same problems, and when I’ve finished all my exams and turned in all my papers, everyone else around me will be finishing their exams and papers and will share that sense of relief and accomplishment.

5. When it’s all over, it’s all over. It’s not like midterms, when you just get a couple days or a week off (depending upon whether it’s the fall semester or the spring semester) and then have to get right back to work before you’ve even had time to recover from the stress of the beginning of the semester. Once finals are over, you’re completely done with all of those classes. Forever. They’re called finals for a reason.