Zen and the art of the all-nighter

Harrison Burns—Staff Writer

Perhaps no activity brings together the good and the bad of the college experience better than the “All-Nighter.”

An All-Nighter describes the act of staying up through the night, awake and alive in body, if not in soul, reaping the harvest of the semester’s procrastination. In light of the final weeks of the semester approaching (when the rate of All-Nighters spike), it seems appropriate to reflect and maybe advise on the All-Nighter process for the uninitiated, or even provide the initiated with some commiseration.

I confess to having some experience on this subject, after participating in many All-Nighters over the course of the semester here at Dordt. With the counsel of many experts (read: other students) and drawing on my own knowledge, the following stages were constructed as a general guide describing what any reader can expect if they attempt an All-Nighter in the future.

Stage 1- Planning. This can occur the-day-of or a week before, but it begins at that excruciating moment when you realize you are going to pull an All-Nighter. You plan the time, find the location and buy the snacks.

Stage 2- Initial Enthusiasm. You’ve had dinner, said your goodbyes to friends, sat down and begun the process. The 15-page paper, the presentation, the dragon that needs to be slain. And you’re feeling good. Excited even. Full speed ahead, you’re chasing that horizon, invigorated with the thought that this beast of an assignment will be accomplished by tomorrow.

Stage 3- Dread. It’s about 11:00 p.m. and reality hits. You really are here all night and it’s only just begun. You’ve made progress, but a chill goes down your spine when you realize how much you’ve got left. Even worse, you already feel fatigued.

Stage 4- Shock. It’s past midnight. Your friends are asleep and you should be, too. Your palms are cold and clammy and you keep nervously gulping down the caffeinated drink.

Stage 5- Pit Stop. It’s 2 a.m. and you’re tired, very tired. Your eyes are blinking rapidly at the laptop and you begin noticing pauses in your work, sometimes for 5 minutes, wherein you’ve done nothing but stare at the harsh florescent screen. You shake yourself, frightened at the sudden drop in productivity and slap yourself back to life (figuratively or literally). You play your pump-up song and pop open a bag of Doritos. You cannot fail now.

Stage 6- Confusion. You no longer need to read Alice in Wonderland- you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole yourself. You think it’s almost 3:00 a.m. but you’re not quite… you think you should go back to the vending machine, get some more food. Time is now an illusion. The pump-up song has been on loop for the past half hour. You start asking yourself questions: “Why do I do this to myself?” “Why isn’t this assignment done yet?” “Why do I want to take a little nibble out of the moon?”

Stage 7- Rabid Energy. The night has lurched you out of the haze with pure adrenaline and it’s only 3:30 a.m. Just 3:30! You can do anything, you’ve never felt better, this assignment is a breeze. You might just be a genius.

Stage 8- Despair. The previous phase only lasted 10 minutes. And you’ve crashed. Hard. Rock bottom. You can’t think, you just want to crawl into the fetal position and sleep.

Stage 9- Limbo. It’s 4 a.m. and you are writing almost unconsciously now. The world has stopped revolving and your body is numb. No emotion. No fatigue. No energy. Yes, you will finish.

Stage 10- Enlightenment. It’s 5 a.m. and the light is in sight. The darkness outside is weakening and the assignment only needs finishing touches. You look out the window, the sense of accomplishment bubbling within you. Peace and hope have returned as you ponder at the squirrel sticking his head in the ground. You might not know why the brown bushy rodent is doing that, but you are glad he is. You’re going to finish this All-Nighter and you’ve been changed for the better because of it.

Stage 11- Surreal Aftermath. 7 a.m. No. You are not better because of it. The sun has risen and you digest the fact that you can walk to the Commons for breakfast, right now. You pack up your things and promise yourself this will never happen again.

I still shudder when recalling my past All-Nighters and yet, I also feel a strange nostalgic affection for them. Don’t do an All-Nighter, it’s not healthy. But if you have to, make it the best All-Nighter you can have. Snag some food, grab a friend, make a playlist, pray, whatever helps ease your divorce from sleep. And whatever you do, do not sleep the during the next day. Good luck.

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