If I could do it all over again

I submitted my master’s thesis yesterday.

As my trembling finger clicked on the ‘submit’ button, my weary eyes saw a little doodly animation move in hypnotic rhythm, with the anxiety-inducing pop-up message ‘now uploading, please wait’. Seconds passed, the doodle – ever-moving concentric circles with pale, bluish blobs in the center- seemed to be on a crusade to make my life miserable. All I wanted was to see the words ‘attachment uploaded’ on the screen, but apparently the system didn’t think that was a proper sendoff for me. After all, we’ve been going at it for almost a year now: submitting papers and home works (ALWAYS at the last minute), and lazy ol’ me praying the system won’t jam as I was about to make a last-second submission. “Next time I’ll submit early, I promise” I always say, almost apologizing to what I imagine to be a disapproving man shaking his head in dismay on the other side of the submission system.

I was on my 17th cup of coffee for the night, pulling up my third all-nighter in a row. Caffeine and sleep deprivation can do strange things to your brain. I could swear Henry Kissinger’s face on the cover of one of my books was following me. ‘Snap out of it’, I whispered to myself, and followed with a not-so-gentle slap on my face (I saw people do that on TV), but it didn’t work. Seconds later, as I was trying to make sense of the nerve-wrecking ‘please wait’ message, there was this sudden, eerie silence. My neighbors – who have been making an awful racket all night – seemed to have abruptly decided to go to sleep (I mean, who listens to Nirvana in 2 a.m.? and while we’re at it, who listens to Nirvana anyway?!). Kissinger’s cold, dead eyes were fixating on me again, and this time I could swear there was a hint of a smirk on his octogenarian face. Darn it!

Suddenly I was awake. Apparently I dozed off for a minute or so in front of the computer. It was a real battle to get my eyelids to open again, but when I did, what I saw was disconcerting. The system was no longer appealing to me to ‘please wait’. Instead, I was presented with a different message, one with a rather ominous title, ‘oops!’ the message reads ‘this is taking longer than usual’. ‘No sh*t’, I groaned.

I can almost hear your baffled muttering. ‘Duh, why don’t you just cancel it and then re-upload the document?’ Easy for you to say, Mr. ‘I-had-an-8-hour-sleep-last-night’. I was in a unique mental state where all my cognitive abilities seemed to have vanished. Re-upload? Naah. That was too ‘out-of-the-box’ for me at that moment. So I just sat there, with what I imagine to be a heart-wrenching look of exhaustion, boredom and despair on my face.

The ‘only’ good thing about all-nighters is that they make you contemplate. One’s ‘fun-loving’ and slightly superficial by-the-day persona gives the floor to a more pensive, somber and life-weary character.

It suddenly hit me. ‘My master’s is almost over, and soon I’ll be heading back home’. It was a bittersweet recollection, if there ever was one. ‘I miss Sudan so much’ I thought, as I glared at the computer screen waiting for the damn document to upload ‘yet I can’t believe soon I won’t be able to take my daily walk down Kungstragarden. No more watching sunset from across Gamla Stan’. I know it’s weird to have nostalgic fondness for something you haven’t yet lost, but, you know, sleep deprivation and all.

“If you could do it all over again, what would you do differently?” I asked myself, taking a saw to the proverbial branch I was sitting on. I believe ‘what if’ scenarios are like a can of worms never to be opened and that nothing good can ever come out of them, but I just couldn’t let it go.

What would I do differently?

I would try to get to know more people, that’s for sure. It’s not like I didn’t get to know amazing people from all over the world in my year in Stockholm. Be it class mates from KTH, fellow SI scholars, fellow digital ambassadors (THE BEST, by the way) and others from the numerous societies and student activities I immersed myself in (and not to forget the amazingly lively Sudanese community in Stockholm), the people I met in Sweden are among the most vivacious I’ve ever come across. Yet, I find myself regretting the party invitations I declined, the outings that I was just too busy to attend, and the ‘mingling’ activities that just seemed too much of a hassle at the time. I wish I could go back and attend every single one of them, and talk to every single individual who’d bother to talk to me.

I don’t like quotes, I think they’re cliché-festered platitudes, but this one resonated with me “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t”. So, if you’re planning to study abroad, put ‘getting to know as many people as you can’ on the top of your agenda, if it’s not there already.
And yeah, my thesis was FINALLY uploaded, thanks for asking  I’ll be defending it on Monday, wish me luck.


Written by Ayman

19 May 2015