The trying times shall not be forgot

By Lee Feder

I wrote these words late at night after a long weekend during which I slept no more than seven hours total, more than six of which were spent rolling uncomfortably on a house floor and the rest in a car. After days without shaving, I felt relatively uncivilized, scrapping for the energy just to complete my weekly assignments.

After a weekend such as that, returning to a nice quiet evening at home consisting almost entirely of sleep would be a reasonable expectation, right? Sadly, my class group had the misfortune of having to spend more than four hours doing a homework assignment with me. And now I get to write a column that I should have completed eight hours ago. Sorry, Mr. Editor. Yet, I will never forget experiences like these because I, like most people, remember the moments that test my patience and mettle. The most memorable are the imminently survivable yet difficult to endure ones.

In general, people like the feeling of triumph. People like success, and when it comes in the face of mounting challenges, they take even more pride in their achievements.

For example, the American media remember and consistently recall tight political races. They talk about Mayor Daley elevating John F. Kennedy to the White House and Truman’s triumph over Dewey as well as Bush’s (debatable) electoral success against Gore. Voters, political correspondents and the American population faced significant logistical and legal difficulties in these contests, sweetening the triumph for the victorious and aggravating the defeat for the vanquished. Neither party, though, will long forget the test of intestinal fortitude that was the 2000 election.

Similar pride results from sporting events for both fans and participants. The 2008 Super Bowl will forever remain in many people’s minds because of the Giants’ shocking upset over the previously undefeated Patriots. Patriots’ fans will forever question coaching strategy and player execution while Giants fans will long laud their defensive line’s prowess. Likewise, my most vivid athletic memories come not from the blowouts in which I participated, but rather from the close, competitive games against strong opponents.

Every college student knows well what I felt this weekend. Each major has those “hell weeks” where students have multiple projects, papers and presentations due combined with endless exams. Sometimes the homework never seems to end and sleep becomes an afterthought.

These experiences remain in our minds not necessarily because they were so significant, but rather because they were so painful or difficult to weather. While few people honestly believe they will fail their classes during those crunch weeks, when caught in the middle of the onslaught the mind is capable of believing even the worst fantasies. What makes such experiences so memorable is that upon reflection, those fears were false and the source of the stress was more imagined than real. Sometimes things just do not matter as much as we think.

When we look back on how we handle the pressure, sometimes our behavior is downright comical while other times it is simply memorable. Ultimately, though, people remember the difficult times because they strengthened character and resolve. Very rarely do we face situations that actually offer a low chance for survival, notwithstanding natural disasters, accidents and medical conditions. Many people, though, have entertaining travel anecdotes about weather or airline incompetence delaying flights, magically disappearing hotel reservations, or other relatively minor, but aggravating misfortunes. These mishaps and difficulties, while at the time as stressful as the hell week, enrich life and leave us with a sense of satiety.

The anecdotal aspect of triumph, then, is one thing that makes human success worth remembering. While the last few days certainly do not rank near the top of my travel or college experiences, if I were an entertaining person I could probably somehow spin the weekend into an entertaining story. Sadly, though, I am not and the hour hath arrived to put the pen to rest. Recovery from the times that try a man’s soul never feels more restful than when it occurs in his own bed.

Lee is a senior in mechanical engineering and is sleeping as much as possible to prepare for another long weekend of travel.