Mari Katherine Raftopoulos: The finale

It is 85 degrees on a cloudless Saturday afternoon.

The sun-kissed faces of the beach volleyball players, rollerblades, bikers and surfers display a carefree smile, a smile with no worries and no problems. This is a summertime smile.

And the tan lines of the bronzers aligning the sand leave the cloudy days of spring behind and welcome the three sunny months of summer ahead.

May 15 marked the first day of summer for Mission Beach, the area of San Diego I call home. With this declaration came an abundance of eager summer vacationers and weekenders reminding me summertime was almost here.

And by almost I mean three school finals away.

But, instead of having tan lines, I have writer's cramp. Instead of a chilled margarita in my hand, I have a Starbuck's Doubleshot Iced Espresso with an extra pump of energy. And instead of a lying on the light crisp sand of the beach letting the sun soak up my worries I am here in the windowless reading room stressed and studying for three finals that my grade depends on.

In high school, finals were just an extra bonus. If your grades were high and absecences were low, you didn't have to take the final. And if you chose not to take the final, your summer started three days earlier.

But if you did have to take those finals or if you chose to take them, it wouldn't have prepared you for finals week in college.

That is, except for the actual event itself.

Finals week is the most dreaded event by college students and the most celebrated event after it is complete. There is no amount of preparation beforehand that will help you through the finish line.

Even the overachievers struggle to keep their eyes open, their eating habits normal, and their dress attire clean. Overachievers become procrastinators, and procrastinators become nocturnal during finals. And the library is not only a place to study but also a place to socialize, eat, nap, sing, dance and hide.

Two weeks ago, I vowed that I would start typing up my study guides for each of the five finals I have. Yet, I sit here a day before my exams making the remaining three study guides, procrastinating because the thought of summer lingers in my mind.

But I am here with three of my best friends who are doing the same thing, procrastinating and daydreaming. With each hour of serious studying comes 10 minutes of gossip time. That is a rule my best friends and I made to stay sane and focused during finals this year.

We started to reminisce about this past year, our sophomore year. The day we moved into our beach house marked the beginning of a more mature self, a time to pay rent, sign a lease, and spend free time doing laundry and cleaning up after one another. Now nine months later, not only has the house accumulated theme party costumes, shoes, beach towels, and bikes, but this house and the people in it have accumulated many memories.

The midnight bike rides on the boardwalk with our stilettos in the basket of our bikes. Our sorority social event "That used to be cool," when we dressed up as the Babysitters Club. That one sunset over Tower 19 that colored the sky a deep pink and orange for three hours. The Chargers home opener football followed by the Alan Jackson and Brooks and Dunn concert. The barbecues, the fifteen-people sleepovers, Trolley rides to the Padres games, and morning after breakfast burritos at Olive Cafe across the street from our house. Memories such as these have made my sophomore year unforgettable and the 824 Ostend household a little place I will always call home no matter which vacationers make it their own.

As the 10 minutes of gossip time dwindles down we each get little tears in our eyes, a few goosebumps and a smile. And as much as we want finals to end and summer to begin, we don't. We don't want to be one year older and one year wiser.

Because these little things can be remembered yet never redone. There is no rewind button in life or college. And as much as we hate sitting in this reading room studying for finals on this sunny day, we don't. We don't want this moment to end because once it does, we are halfway done with college and that much closer to reality.

So, for now finals have taken over my life but will never take over the friendships and memories I have made my sophomore year and those I will continue to make these next two years.

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