If anyone else had been there, or if anyone had even come by, I wouldn’t have been the state I was in. It’s only through the hours of solitary studying, where the content is ungraspable and so is the purpose that the content would even exist in the first place or that the content would be taught in a class and decided to be put against students in a test or that that singular test would decide the fate of that course and in turn your semester – your year – your degree and of course your life, that one comes to the place where the fall to the pavement from the third floor university library window starts to look like a viable avenue to success — or at least escape. I wasn’t quite at that point (not that I hadn’t been there before, for if I hadn’t I wouldn’t know how close I was to getting there again), but I was close.
It might have been Numerical Methods or Electrical Devices or Systems & Control Theory or Read An Encyclopedia In Mandarin & Memorize It, I can’t remember, the pain has closed off the synapses, but I know it was the end of a long day. I was in hunched over my workstation on a “Group Floor” in the University of Guelph library, but you wouldn’t be able to tell it apart from the “Quiet Floors” except for the substitution of confining cubicles for long desks without separation walls. Not that it mattered in the slightest on this particular night because I had the suite to myself. Textbook open on the right, laptop and notes open on the left, alternating waves of agonizing hand cramps and baffled paralysis. Ah, is there so sweet a sensation. I hover off my chair as I write this because it is all behind me, never to return; I’ll receive my degree in the mail later this month. So it is both traumatizing and elating to recount the displeasure of preparing for a final.
I was near my breaking point. The instrumental music in ears had become suffocating so I’d opted for the scratching of my pen. I had pushed through one more problem, then another, one more chapter, then another. And as you sometimes need to do during those periods, I checked myself; I needed a break. A timer didn’t go off nor did my stomach grumble, my brain just kind of blared at me to get away from the page or it would force an aneurysm to make me. So I did. I stood from the chair I was in and stepped right behind me into the rows and rows of books held on metal racking. And it was in these rows where, as a tattered version of myself, like a stray dog, that I aimlessly turned and stopped in a section to pull a book off the shelf. The book I pulled was Cinema by Alain Badiou and the section I had stopped in was of the same name. And to me this was a message. “Be patient, this is what it’s all for.” I love movies, I love writing, and I hope to some extent write or make movies somehow in my life. It was a great relief to see the section I had stumbled into. By chance, I had found just what I needed to finish studying or change my dreaded view about it and get the job done.
Now that I have completed my engineering degree and I’m at my family cottage up north, all I’m doing everyday is reading and writing. This was the plan; I’m living the plan. That day in the library, at the end of my wits, was a moment of promise.
Still, I can’t help but think the moment was not so much a divine beacon guiding me out of the despair I’d worked myself into, but more a case of when you go looking for a sign, you will find one in short order.
B.F. Greeno, aka