The All-Nighter, in the words of someone who survived it

A veteran speaks

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The student population can be divided into two groups: those who pull all-nighters, and those who don’t. In my view, society was built by and for the latter, an upper echelon of high functioning people who have their lives together. With bodies finely tuned like microchips, they get up at the crack of dawn, lead full and productive lives, and then tuck themselves back into bed, their work done and their woes forgotten by 11pm every night. If that’s you, fantastic. Good for you.

However, I am not one of these people, and this is not one of those stories. As a bottom-dweller with much to share about the dumpster fire of my undergraduate life, this is my experience with the all-nighter.

The concept was foreign to me in high school. That all changed when I got to Cambridge, where it took a grand total of five days for me to pull my first all-nighter. The countdown had effectively begun from the moment I walked away from my hungover matriculation picture. Having wholly underestimated my reading list, I found myself face to face with a page of cases to read for the next day’s supervision. Never in my life had things come this close to the wire – if I didn’t get it done that night, a funeral procession would be making its way down Trumpington Street the next day instead of me. So I bit the bullet and stayed up. All night. There's nothing quite like your first all-nighter; without so much as a nap, I steered my ship from one day to the next with no jump cut, no scene change, no audience intermission.

Little did I know, I was doomed to repeat this cycle. The following is a trajectory of my All-Nighter™ developed over tens of trials.

Scientifically proven, 100% fact.

Scientifically proven, 100% fact.

9.00pm – The realisation that I've left everything too late and the only resort is sustained blunt force labour sets in. Luckily, the fact that time is still in the single digits deludes me into believing time is infinite. “I’ve got all night,” I think, “I can pull this off.”

10.00pm – It’s been an hour since I've started working. I have covered about three pages of the textbook but it’s all good, I'm still getting into the zone.

12.00am – Hey ho, it's the day of the supervision! But if I haven't actually slept, it's not really the next day yet.

12.30am – *I yawn so hard that I get fatigue-tears all over my glasses and they mist up.*

We keep a log of our rations in the army

We keep a log of our rations in the army

1.00am – I've had about 11 Jaffa Cakes but am still hungry (spoiler: it’s the void that’s started to open up inside me). My friends are starting to go offline and the list of Actives on Messenger is dwindling. I'm identifying a lot with lone survivor Will Smith in I Am Legend right now.

2.00am – More than half the supo sheet still remains, and the well of hope has run bone dry. Life Is Suffering and this Piano Music for Studying playlist is what they’ll play at my funeral.

3.30am – I find a fellow degenerate soldier in my war against the night. We establish a Night's Watch system wherein she installs herself in my bed so that I can't get in.

Comrade holding the Wall

Comrade holding the Wall

5.00am – The birds are singing. The only thing stopping me from shooting them out of the sky is the college no-rifle policy.

6.30am – At this point my energies are focused less on productivity and more on staying alive. I have now ditched the coffee press and am resorting to rubbing Illy Dark Roast granules into my gums for uninhibited access to caffeine. There is officially no point in sleeping now because of how soon I have to wake up again.

Sunrise, sunrise

Sunrise, sunrise

9.00am – The day has officially begun. I slap on some makeup and drape clothing onto my rotting corpse. If I nod, smile, and make enough eye contact with my supervisor, I might actually get away with my first supervision as a dead person (I did).

So what’s the lesson here? Plan your life out better to avoid a sequence of events like this? Exercise self discipline and conform to a healthy, conventional social timeline? Definitely not; you’re much too tired for that. Rinse and repeat.