Rajesh Kumar

Optimizing life, one day after the next

On Hardcoreness

16 Jun 2009

When I joined Waterloo in the Fall of '05, I came across a bunch of kids, mostly upper-years, who seemed super hard-core to me. I looked up to these guys because I thought they were very cool. Keep in mind, these were 19- and 20- year old kids. So I thought to myself, I want to be like these kids too. I wanted to join the "club" too. And there began my quest to try and push myself in every little way.

I once met a guy who finished his last final exam at 4pm, caught a flight at 7pm from Pearson, arrived at Los Angeles at 10pm, moved into his new place in an hour or so, went to bed at 1am, and was at work next day at 9am to start his new co-op job. No breaks, no vacation, no taking a week off to "chill" at home, no one to help with the packing, and no family to come pick up his belongings. Now here's a guy who was purely self-sufficient. Very h-core as far as I was concerned.

This was also the guy who had written 3 final exams within a span of 24 hours. He could've easily appealed for relief, but he chose not to. The beauty of it was that he didn't say anything about it at all. He just kept quiet about it like it was completely normal to do something like that. I guess the first rule of hard-core club is to not talk about hard-core club. But writing 3 final exams within a span of 24 hours is far from normal, even by elevated standards. Most people complain heavily when they have just one exam a day on consecutive days.

Writing more than one final exam a day is hard mostly because the time-proven technique of staying up late, consuming heavy amounts of caffeine and/or sugar before the exam, writing the exam, and then crashing after the exam doesn't work anymore. If you know beforehand that you're going to have multiple closely-packed exams, you're forced to keep up with the material as the term progresses.

I once had to write 3 exams in 24 hours myself, and I performed horribly bad. When you write 2 final exams one after the next, it is very very hard not to allow the poor performance of your first exam affect the performance of the second exam. Especially when you can't sleep-off the bad memory. And that's where I failed. I let the massive screw-up of NE 344 affect my performance on AMATH 332 back in Spring '08, even though I was quite well-prepared for the latter.

I knew this other guy who finished his co-op job Friday evening, worked overtime Saturday and Sunday, caught an early morning flight back to Waterloo on Monday morning, arrived at 9am, picked up keys to his new suite at residence, and was ready at 10am sharp for his very first class of the term. My west-coast co-op field coordinator Dan called these people, I quote, "crazy". I call them hard-core.

I think people who live their lives this way have my respect. Mostly because it is really, really hard to live your life like that. I have tried it myself and haven't always done well. The timing needs to be impeccable, the planning and scheduling needs to be perfect. One small mess-up and you could be delayed any number of hours.

I suppose if these were 30-year old business guys, I wouldn't have been so impressed. But 19 and 20? That just blows my mind. Most 19-year olds are so clueless. They come to Waterloo and within a week they want to be back home, in their nest, in the comfort of their parents' care.

It's been 4 years since I joined Waterloo and met these very hard-core people. I haven't really made much progress since. But at least I can revel in the fact that I tried. Alas, I will have to settle with a runner-up position of being only a wannabe.

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