Sleeping Through Exams

Flickr / Quinn Dombrowski
Flickr / Quinn Dombrowski

I have slept through final exams. There is a moment, a terrible heartbreaking instant, when you wake up, you look at the time on your cell phone, and you realize you’re not just a little late, oh no—the exam’s been over for hours. You stare at your phone for a long time as if you might warp time through sheer force of will. You tell yourself there’s no point indulging the kind of negative emotions which flood your body with harmful stress hormones. Giving yourself over to utter horror and despair will not improve your situation. There was a time when you could have evaded these circumstances, but that moment has passed, and all that is left now is damage control.

I remember the first time I slept through an exam. It was a Perspectives on Film final, and I’d stayed up the whole night studying for it. Of course, this made me more prone to stupid sleepy decisions, more susceptible to turning off my phone alarm in a fit of exhausted madness. I call this idiotic version of myself Sleepy Brad. Sleepy Brad always gets AM and PM confused on his alarm. Sleepy Brad will turn off the alarm, and then decide it’d be a good idea to sleep ten more minutes without resetting the alarm. Sleepy Brad has car accidents on the way to class. Sleepy Brad is confused by sentences that contain multiple clauses. Sleepy Brad becomes suddenly and inexplicably enraged at people and things for random arbitrary reasons. Sleepy Brad has no moral compass or common sense. No one likes Sleepy Brad. Sleepy Brad, you see, is kind of a douchebag.

The night before the exam, Sleepy Brad made the decision to set the alarm on his phone for PM rather than AM. Consequently, I woke up at 9:10 AM—feeling ominously well rested and rejuvenated—when my exam started at 9. I looked at my phone, and I felt no horror, just numbness. I felt still and cold and empty. My life as I knew it was over, and now I needed to press forward into this new life, the life of a person who sometimes sleeps through exams. I rushed up to the school and reached my class by 9:30—at least I’d have twenty minutes to sprint through the final. But there was no one in the auditorium. The exam had evidently been so astonishingly short and easy, everyone finished in a matter of ten minutes.

I emailed the professor, but she refused to administer a make-up. When the dust settled, I had failed the class completely.

The next time I slept through an exam, Sleepy Brad had somehow confused the time of the exam for another incorrect time, and so when I went to take it, I found myself in a room full of kids speaking Spanish. One of them pointed at me and said, “Quién es usted?” I said, “This is not a statistics exam, is it?” He said, “Mierda, que está en problemas.” I said, “Well, fuck.” Thus, I failed statistics and had to retake it again.

You would think I’d have learned by this point, but no, the third time I slept through an exam was statistics again. This time, I had to reassess myself as a human being. How can I reconcile my own glowing radiant self-image with the fact that I’d slept through exams over and over? What kind of person does that? Do I just not care about my classes? Am I some kind of moron? This was my thought process.

I have one last class to pass before I graduate. For this class, I have one last final exam to take. Could I pass the class without taking the exam? Possibly. But, uh, I’d rather not risk it. The scenario of ‘I slept through my final exam, and now I won’t be graduating, have to cancel my graduation party, put all my plans on hold, and probably drink an ice cold glass of Drano’ is something I’d like to avoid if at all possible. The possibility of this occurring is so awful, so appalling, that I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

If you sleep through an exam, you’re going to have to lie. Lie, lie, and lie some more. Invent a roommate who hemorrhages blood from every orifice due to a mysterious autoimmune disorder, and say that you had to drive him to the hospital or let him bleed to death on the floor. Say you had a horrific car accident and forge a fake police department accident report along with car accident photos from a Google image search. Show up with a band-aid across your forehead. Say your mother was mauled to death by an escaped circus tiger. Attach a news article from the internet about it and change the date and names.

Or try to avoid sleeping through an exam in the first place. Set multiple alarms around the room. Get someone to call you to talk Sleepy You into waking up—“Brad you need to wake up. You have to do it or you will fail at life. Fucking do it.” Sleepy You needs someone to remind him that the real world is more important than the dream world. He wants to return to hanging out with Dr. Grant in Jurassic Park, and he needs someone to remind him that the final exam exists, is important, and is imminent.

Me, I’m not sleeping at all. Sleepy Brad can no longer be trusted under any circumstances. Therefore, I’m going to stay up all night guzzling red bulls, and by God in heaven, I will not sleep through this one. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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