Not a single St. Patrick's Day goes by that I don't think about the one in 1992. It was my senior year at JMU and we were all looking forward to graduating in only a couple of months. We were young, the world was shiny and bright, and we had no idea what the heck we were going to do for the rest of our lives. No matter, there was the St. Patrick's Day party at the Knights of Columbus House and we were going to drink beer and party down.
Mom, Dad....you should stop reading this now.
I don't actually remember a whole lot about this particular party other than a few vivid memories of asking Father John where the keg was and later dancing on top of the coffee table to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" with my housemate Tom. It must have been a particularly sturdy coffee table. I know we got home late because we always got home late when we went out to party. I probably crashed into bed as soon as I walked into my room, but I at least had the forethought to set my alarm so I could get up to take the senior assessment exam the next morning.
Oh yes, I went out and partied the night before an exam.
(I warned you not to keep reading this, Mom.)
Senior assessment exams are designed to measure how much the graduating class has learned in their time at college and resemble the GREs in some ways. At JMU, the exam you took was based on your major area of study. I was a biology major, so mine was a broad examination across the biological sciences. While you were expected to take the senior assessment exam, your results did not affect your GPA in any way, therefore not many students really took them seriously. There were *many* people out celebrating St. Patrick's Day that evening.
Flash forward to the morning of March 18, 1992. I woke up with a jerk, realizing that while I had set my alarm to go off that morning with plenty of time to get to campus before the exam, I must have turned the clock off and fallen back asleep. I had 20 minutes before the exam started. I bolted out of bed and miraculously managed to get dressed and on campus with a couple of minutes to spare before the exam started. After about a half hour of filling in the little bubbles on the Scantron form, I congratulated myself on my suave ability to have a social life and be a responsible student. Here I was, fulfilling my obligation to the school like a good student after a night of dancing on coffee tables! It wasn't until a full hour into the exam that it slowly dawned on me that maybe, just maybe, staying out all night might not have been the best idea. I'd only had about 5 hours of sleep, I hadn't had time to eat breakfast, and it was getting hard to focus on the questions in front of me. After another half hour I had to admit that, to my horror, I was still sobering up.
(There. I did warn you.)
I finished the exam and quickly left the building, but I couldn't go back home yet. Because I had declared myself two weeks prior as a double major with English as my second area of study, I had a second exam to take that afternoon. I'm sure I got something to eat and drank as much water as I possibly could before the English exam started, but by then I was the agony of a hangover in full bloom.
In the end I finished the English exam and made it back to our apartment in disgrace. I'm sure my results were responsible for making the assessments for the Biology and English Classes of 1992 to be substantially lower than expected. With any luck, the statistician responsible for reviewing that data stamped my results as "outlier" and tossed them out of the analysis. I can only hope.
There's no real moral to this story. While I never did party the night before an exam again, including all the years I spent in graduate school, I can't say that this one experience prevented me from making stupid choices in later years. When the time comes for my daughter to go to college, I'm sure I'll wonder if she'll have a similar story that she hides for years and years before divulging to her parents. Maybe Nirvana's song sums it up best...we were young, we were stupid, and stupidity is contagious when you're young.
"With the lights out, it's less dangerous.
Here we are now, entertain us.
I feel stupid and contagious.
Here we are now, entertain us."