By Evan Douville, Feature Editor Originally published in Issue 5, Volume 32 of The University Register on Friday, November 8, 2019

Frankly, November is hell.

Don’t get me wrong, I love November. Or, at least, I love the November season, anyway. I love the cold weather, the leaves starting to crunch, Christmas music faintly playing at midnight after Halloween, and enough pumpkin spice and chai to kill me instantly. I love the first hints of snow, going home for Thanksgiving and spending time with my family, Black Friday shopping to support our capitalist overlords because I NEED STUFF, and spending time with my friends here in Morris. On paper, November should be perfect.

But, to be completely honest, November sucks.

Let me start with the basics: classes. November is the worst time of year for classes. It is right after midterms, so you would think we, as students, get a break, right? Wrong. Papers upon papers upon projects upon presentations upon Senior Seminar finalizations upon more presentations upon tests upon tests. I do not think I have a single week in November where I do not have some test, some presentation, some grade-altering assignments due. This period is what I dub the “Pre-finals Finals” period.

There are no finals, not in the “traditional” sense of “finals week, predetermined test period, take a test/turn in final paper.” Rather, you are still being given a normal assignment load on top of your current project load. There are nightly readings, math problems, questions from the textbook, mini-essays, journaling, etc., it is absolutely bonkers. Some professors are accommodating and do not assign too many things at once, giving students a lighter load as they assign the almighty paper that is worth 30% of your final grade according to the syllabus. These are the ‘nice’ professors in the loosest terms possible. They do not like watching you suffer.

Then there are your other professors: two papers, a research project, and intense reading on top of in-class quizzes, discussions, and tests. These are the nightmarish professors who think it is funny to watch students scramble to finish their five-to-ten page essay, their ten-to-fifteen minute presentation, and their in-class arguments all in the span of the same day. It all cools off after Thanksgiving break, which this year is, perhaps painfully, right at the end of the month.

You could make the argument that “listen, this also happens in the spring, in April, right after spring break!” to which I would normally offer a ‘touche’ but that feels a little bit different to me. We as students usually get a decent breadth of space after spring break (most likely because it is a longer break), whereas November hits us like a truck and we have no real backboard to bounce off of.

But November is not just hell in terms of classes, oh no. Then it might be manageable. No, November is also sickness season. Those of you who saw me around campus this week might have seen me with a sore throat, hoarse voice, runny nose, coughing my brains out, and general ill pallor. Needless to say, I was not having a good time. But it is not just me getting sick: roommates, friends, even my enemies are all falling to the dreaded “fall plague” which can be described as “an illness without the illness.”

Health services, bless their hearts, usually gives out cold packs and medicine to students who come in, which is a plus, and I highly recommend visiting them. Sickness does not just make you feel like garbage, it also means you have to miss class. Not in the “oh, I think I will just take a day for myself because I understand these assignments” sense or the “I am going off on a trip for sports/club/life and I have an excused absence but can still make up the homework” miss class, I am talking missed class. There is no brainpower to study since you are still sniffling and coughing and focusing on getting better, there is very little in the way to do about getting your assignments in on time, since if you miss on an important day (such as one of the big papers above) you are basically screwed, and if, God Help You, you can not get a sickness pass from health services (which is generally only reserved for diagnosable illnesses, not so much the “fall plague”), everything is late and you take absences. Take too many, and they rack up into a horrible grade deduction that usually results in upwards of a letter grade reduced.

I think some people would rather die than get sick. Some people just troop through the plague, and actually go to class. First of all, thanks for almost getting me sick (though I am guilty of this one so also sorry!). Secondly, I do not know how you focus in class when you are coughing and sniffling and wondering when you are finally going to keel over and pass out from DayQuil.

But November sometimes is all fun and games, and that is the problem.

Maybe it is just because this year I finally decided to do something with my life, but November is a month where I am completely overbooked in terms of my days. On top of classes, work, and writing for this lovely newspaper, I have also got club responsibilities and management, D&D sessions to attend, helping friends out with their own projects, completing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), applying for jobs in the spring back home, helping out faculty with various activities and projects, and hosting a radio show, all while trying to stay on top of my grades, health, and other social connections. So far I have only managed to maintain the last one. Lucky me.

I do not know what it is about November that is so enticing for extreme activity. Maybe it is the end of the year and everyone is trying to cram in as much activity as they can before the holidays? Whatever the reason, it has got me, and a fair bit of other students in a pickle when it comes to time management. We are busy people, after all, but I think part of the fun of being a college student is that some of that business is doing things we genuinely enjoy.

But, as those angry people on Twitter keep telling me, too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, and I think I am starting to see those side effects. I am thankful enough to be able to get six hours of sleep a night by sleeping from two to eight most days. Others are not so lucky, whether they have a dreaded Eight A.M., have clubs that lasts well into the evening and social obligations late into the night, or have a paper that one jerkwad professor decided to have due that morning. Some might work multiple jobs, which adds even more stress to the giant dogpile of things to do.

And yet, there is a communal aspect to November that I just cannot deny is wonderful. In a month where everyone is busy, trying to squeeze every possible second out of a twenty-four hour day and stay alive, there is a sense of camaraderie between people. Even people who I have never talked to before I can still chat with about how stressed out we are, even about the things we love. For me, it is overbooking commitments. For them, it is working multiple jobs, or preparing for graduation, or even some minor thing that in the grand scheme of things seems inconsequential.

People are also so willing to help one another out in these trying times. Whether it is a physical gesture, like helping out on a project, offering you a warm beverage, or words of encouragement, or maybe it is a more subtle gesture, like sending a meme, checking up on your friends, or even offering advice and helping them plan out a schedule. Even when we are busy, we can always make time for our friends, and that is something really magical. So yeah. November is hell, because we are all dying a very slow and painful death of the self.

But there is also something charming about working at a breakneck pace to get everything done before the deadlines. There is something wonderful about making sure everything goes off without a hitch, a Rube Goldberg machine of interlocking commitments moving seamlessly from one to the next. And there is, of course, something so satisfying about at the end of the day getting to lay in bed, exhausted, and resting for however long you can. There is something great about surviving a hell month. And you know what? I can not wait to do it next year, out in the real world, too.