500 Words At A Time: 14-Step Rhythms

5 hours ago I went to sleep.

1 week ago the semester ended for a three week break.

My point, there is a rhythm to college and that rhythm is hard to break. Usually takes me most of a summer to break the rhythm. This rhythm is directly related to the theme of how intrusive college can be, like some songs the rhythm becomes stuck in your head and only a new song or rhythm can replace it. I have yet to find my new rhythm. So while I am firmly entrenched in this rhythm how about I share it with you because once you know the rhythm the dance goes a lot smoother.

For reference sake, my headphones are in providing me with another rhythm (White Zombie Astro Creep 2000). Its all there you just have to listen to the music and I suggest you find some music you like to get you through the hours, days, weeks, months, and years of college. Make that the first thing you do, have music.

There are three rhythms to college that stand out, the meta-rhythm, the semester rhythm, and the day-to-day rhythm.


The meta-rhythm is the repetitive pattern of each year.

  1. Each year, file for financial aid. The first year being the most time consuming.
  2. Wait.
  3. Register for classes.
  4. Wait.
  5. Get the bill.
  6. Go to classes.
  7. End of semester.
  8. Register for classes.
  9. Wait.
  10. Get the bill.
  11. Go to classes.
  12. End of semester.
  13. Summer break or summer classes, if so inclined.
  14. Repeat Steps 1-13 for the next 2 to 5 years for undergrad

Meta-rhythm quickly falls into the background, meaning that you will scarcely remember financial aid or registering for classes from one year to the next. It is an action that you do because you have to do, nothing more. What you will remember, is waiting for the results, specifically, “Will I get enough financial aid to cover this year.” That stress marks a person. The meta-rhythm is like the seasons, you don’t remember when the seasons change, you just know they did.

Semester Rhythm

Would you like your four years to pass smoother? Pay attention, the semester rhythm is unchanging only marked by how many breaks there are. I don’t care what classes you have. I don’t care where they are located at. I don’t care what professors you have.

  1. Register for classes.
  2. Wait.
  3. Get overpriced books for classes. You will wonder how much you will use each book and ALWAYS be disappointed at the end of each semester.
  4. First day of class: have syllabus or manifesto read to you. Rarely is there actual work on day one.
  5. Week 1: get your bearings straight, which includes where is YOUR seat, who do you know, who don’t you want to know, and first impressions.
  6. Week 2 or 3: work really begins, up to this point lecture with the odd in-class or small homework assignment. Unless you are in an online class where the work starts week two and doesn’t stop.
  7. Weeks 4 through 8 or 9: you have the rhythm of the class down, including knowing which student will say the smart thing and which students will say the dumb things. By now you should know the professor’s in-class behaviors. At least one exam in each class and preparing for mid-term exams.
  8. Register for next semester or year.
  9. Weeks 9 or 10 through 14: you have this class down or you are grubbing for every extra credit point you can get to pass. At this point, you should know if you are going to pass or fail. Also, final projects are due and time to think about final exams.
  10. Week 15: wrap everything up, try not to think about the end of semester too much, and final exams.
  11. Exam week: come to terms that the schedule of final exams has NOTHING to do with actual class schedule. Take final exams and for many of you, pray. If you have been reading along, you have learned to pass BEFORE exams, thus no need for prayer. The rest of you, hope you are in good with whatever grade deity you worship.
  12. Return books, get pissed off at how much money you do not get back in relation to how much you paid and did not use the book
  13. Break time
  14. Wait

Day-To-Day Rhythm

Like the semester rhythm, the day-to-day rhythm never changes. Never. The day-to-day rhythm of college has not changed in five years.

  1. Wake up, often with less than 8 hours of sleep.
  2. Get ready for classes
  3. If you have school age children, see to their needs FIRST and get them off to school
  4. If you have non-school age children, see to their needs FIRST
  5. Go to class (es).
  6. Sit in classroom, listen to lecture, take notes, ask questions, and if you are me pray you keep your anger to a manageable level-music helps a lot. While sitting in class, listen to the voice in the back of your head telling you everything NOT school related that needs to get done-lunch, dinner, kids appointments, your appointments, car, bills, sex, etc. all.
  7. Between classes, seek out sustenance and talk to acquaintances and friends as you pass by. These “talks” tend to be brief as everyone involved has somewhere to be.
  8. Go home or back to your dorm room.
  9. If you are an adult, at home you will do one of the following:
    • take care of house work-dishes, laundry, cleaning, etc
    • start homework
    • procrastinate
  10. If you have children, try to get as much done before they get out of school or seek you out for something.
  11. Children home? Forget about getting any college work done while they are up, thus back to housework and making food
  12. Put children to bed
  13. Start homework or procrastinate more
  14. Go to bed late for an insomniac

The day-to-day rhythm is the one that is going to stick with you. The day-to-day rhythm is the one that will wear away at the edges of who you are, slowly like erosion, and by the time you realize some of you has been washed away it is too late, because another day is here.

And there you have it, the rhythms of college or at least my rhythms. Think of the above as those foot silhouettes used to teach people how to dance. Watch what steps I took. Then take your own. Soon enough you will be dancing to the rhythm.

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