I am a dyed-in-the-wool nerd who gets excited by the sight and the smell of school supplies. I recall childhood mostly as a montage of going into Staples each August and looking at all the varieties of pens, pencils and notebooks. Graduation from Duo-Tangs to flimsily stapled notebooks to coiled ones and then, finally, to binders provided a measure for my ascent to maturity.
I no longer go on a school supply shopping spree each year. The only thing I still need to stock up on is coffee.
After all, having the right supplies in class is only so helpful if I fall asleep 10 minutes into my three-hour seminar, and with only five other students in the class, I can’t easily get away with it.
I can bring all the highlighters and sticky notes in the world, but if I’m nodding off in the middle of a lecture I’m not going to be properly colour-coding my notes. In fact, my notes from those days often look like a terrifying jumble of things my professor said mixed with dreams as intense as they are short-lived.
“The Tet Offensive was a decisive point in the war on teddy bears at the bridge canal” is, perhaps surprisingly, not very helpful when studying for my History of the Vietnam War final.
This is why coffee is by far the most important school supply in my arsenal these days. When I have five dollars left, I don’t even consider budgeting in more food in favour of coffee.
I can afford to forget my books once in a while because many of my professors intentionally choose textbooks and readings that can be found in the library or online. I can afford to forget a pen and paper because my classmates are always willing to lend me a piece of paper or a pen, or email me the notes they typed.
I can’t afford a school day without coffee.
Taking a break from studying to stretch your legs is also much more attractive when you have somewhere to go, like the coffee shop down the hall or across the street. If it weren’t for that destination I would undoubtedly spend every study break surfing the Internet, and those “breaks” always seem to last five or 45 minutes longer than I intend them to. This is just another way that drinking coffee keeps me focused and on-task.
Of course, there are downsides. Drinking too much coffee is “bad” for your “health,” if you listen to “trained medical professionals.” And I suppose I have had a couple of three- or four-coffee days that ended in me sweating and jittery, resting and waiting for my caffeine headache to go away.
But those days are few and far between, and a small price to pay for finishing my papers on time. On the whole, coffee is what keeps me moving quickly through the day, and I thank Howard Schultz and Tim Horton every day I make it out of class with coherent notes and a happy professor.
Graphic: Samantha Braun/The Sheaf