What I Learned from Not Getting An Extension
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What I Learned from Not Getting An Extension

How a rough patch turned into a reaffirmation of personal strength

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What I Learned from Not Getting An Extension

I had spent the last three days crying nonstop and had an essay due the following afternoon.

"Don't worry about the essay," I was told during my emergency counseling session. "Just ask for an extension."

"It's a legitimate excuse - it was a health emergency," my father said. "They can't refuse you an extension in good conscience."

I hated the idea, hated feeling like I needed to be accommodated for a problem that I felt I should have been able to handle on my own. Still, I knew I couldn't possibly finish the paper by the deadline and that I would need a good night's sleep to recover my strength. Reluctantly, I emailed my professor and asked for an extension on the essay. As the night wore on, I waited impatiently for a response that never came.

"Okay," I told myself. "I'll go to bed and get some sleep. That will help me confront whatever I hear in the morning." I tossed and turned that night, awakening at 4:30 AM to find that my professor still hadn't replied to my inquiry. Exhausted, I opened my laptop and wandered into the study lounge, only to find a gaggle of girls who had been staying up all night to work on the same assignment. Ashamed of my inability to function without sleep and wanting to be alone with my emotions, I sunk onto the floor in the corridor between two communal bathrooms and started working. I dug my fingernails into my arms and wept, full of self-loathing and fear that I would fail my class because I had put this essay off until the last minute.

But somehow, I managed to get it done. Even as I bawled outside the community bathroom, I found something within me - force of habit, maybe, or perhaps something more dignified - that let me keep going. I can't say the final product was beautiful, but I felt a certain satisfaction upon putting the final words onto the page. It reminded me that even as I berated myself for letting my depression get the better of me, for placing unreasonable significance on an assignment my more capable peers would have been able to shrug off, I had a power within me to push through the obstacles I created. I realized that I am powerful enough to claim victory over my worst impulses.

My professor never did respond to my plea, but in some ways, I'm glad he didn't. Even if he scores the essay as harshly as its rushed, sleep-deprived content probably warrants, I gained more from the experience of having to finish it in unfavorable circumstances than I would from any improved grade the extension might have gleaned for me.

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