Great! Fine. Alright. Tired. Hanging in there. Pretty good.
Asking “how are you?” typically yields a short filler response and a quick reciprocation of the question. Outside of Stanford, you can generally expect people to estimate their moods with phrases similar to the above samples. However, here on Campus, students have picked up a new heuristic for explaining how they’re feeling: what week of the quarter it is.
Almost every week this year, I’ve heard people respond to “how are you?” with a simple statement of fact: “Oh, it’s Week X.” This usually elicits a knowing look from the asker, as though much more has been said than this obvious, vague statement. In my experience, replying with the week of the quarter tends to mean something markedly different depending on which week it actually is — maybe this simple response actually presents a more nuanced and expressive meaning than meets the eye.
“It’s Week One”: You’re feeling great. You started the day enrolled in 20 units and ended it at a reasonable 15 when you found out about a final paper that you simply did not want to write. The next 10 weeks are entirely under your control: With the least outside work you’re likely to have all quarter, you split your extra time between cycling through Netflix series and strategically adjusting your schedule to ensure the smoothest quarter possible.
“It’s Week Two”: Things are picking up. It’s getting a little late to add new classes, so the pressure’s on to make sure you have a full roster of classes you’re willing to commit to. You feel a little behind already but nothing you can’t push through. How is it only Week Two?
“It’s Week Three”: Your chem midterm just came out of nowhere, and you’re still reeling just a bit. You can’t decide whether to drop an unexpectedly difficult class — it’s bound to get even tougher, but you’ve already survived almost a third of the quarter, so how bad could the next two-thirds be? Now is the time to put your game face on, buckle down and tough it out. You are a warrior.
“It’s Week Four”: You ran out of Meal Plan Dollars and pencil lead on the same day. Despite the fact that you’ll have to make it until the quarter’s end without TAP’s sweet potato fries to help you through, you feel like you have most of your life together. Midterms are looming around the corner, but for the duration of Week Four you put them out of your mind and tell yourself you’ll conquer your massive to-do list over the weekend.
“It’s Week Five”: It takes you a second to readjust to human interaction before you answer, since you spent the last seven straight hours in the stacks at Green. You would elaborate on your mood, but you’ve just run out the clock on your strictly scheduled 10-minute study break.
“It’s Week Six”: That one lingering midterm that you didn’t have time to study for last week now consumes your waking hours. You take the best nap of your life after it’s over. You feel battered but unbroken. You’re over the hump and stronger for it. You take a well-deserved break from the grind over the weekend and come back refreshed on Monday of Week Seven.
“It’s Week Seven”: It seems as though the worst is over, if only temporarily. You can now slip into your schedule things like laundry and washing your dishes, which you’ve been putting off since Week Four in the interest of surviving midterm season. You barely have time to breathe a sigh of relief before your professor drops the phrase “final paper” in class. Three more weeks.
“It’s Week Eight”: You don’t understand how you’ve made it from Week One to Week Eight in the span of what feels like 5-7 business days. Everything is happening so fast. You start bringing your study materials to the dining hall. Your desire to make an informed decision about grading statuses is hampered by the fact that you still have no available grades. You feel caught up in a whirlwind but unsure how you got here.
“It’s Week Nine”: You have to admit to yourself that it is past time to get started on those final papers. You’re unsure if you’re physically capable of accomplishing everything you need to get done before the end of the quarter. At the same time, the end is in sight. If you can make it through this, you’re free.
“It’s Week Ten”: A week from now, it’ll all be over. You have exams, take-home finals, papers and projects competing for space in your mind. Still, you can’t help but waste time daydreaming about your next break. Though Week Ten and exam week can feel like the end of the world, you know deep down that what’s done is — for the most part — done.
Contact Jackie O’Neil at jroneil ‘at’ stanford.edu