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En Route #31


The Final Critique

My Final Critique started at 3pm on Tuesday, May 2nd. Well, that’s not entirely true. For me and my friend, the only two seniors graduating from Communication Design this year, things began a few hours before that. We’d planned to arrive at school at 11am, to have ample time to set up, prepare, and fret. I, having been slightly ill in the days leading up due to one too many late nights (even by college standards), was still sporting a bit of a cough as I made my way to school. The sun shone and the birds chirped as Paris rejoiced in a newly minted Spring. The two seniors on the other hand, proceeded to lock themselves in a room, blast some tunes, and hung their work up. I, having 60 watercolor illustrations to stick on the wall, was going a touch mad trying to get them somewhat aligned when my friend gasped in horror. She’d forgotten a part of her work and would have to race back on the RER. Luckily it was still early, just past 12pm, so she still had time for a side quest as I busied myself with getting the room ready.

In a montage of stressful cleaning, I busied myself with moving tables, arranging chairs, and finding places to stash random stacks of papers scattered throughout the room (which I believe was the broom closet’s secondary purpose). Once this was done, I sat in relatively peaceful silence and listened for my friend’s purposeful stride. An hour later, the door flung open, revealing one tired student to another. We moved to the second stage of preparations, testing all our tech and double then triple checking any links we’d need to have ready. Gradually, people began to trickle in, almost without us realizing. Current and former students who did their best to distract us with stories of last year’s critiques. I waited for dread to put its icy grip on my heart. Nothing. Things started to feel a bit more official as professors began to appear, but still, nothing more than a sort of excited buzz. I was feeling good, and above all, comfortable as I surveyed the room full of all the people I knew in the building.

Our department chair said a few words, and then turned things over to me. I took a breath, smiled, and then just jumped right in. Later, I was told that my presentation lasted around 18 minutes in total, but to me the time melted away. Rather than experiencing a total blackout, I felt firmly attached to myself as I clicked through my slides. Everything seemed to be going well, I was relaxed and confident, probably more than I’d ever been while giving a presentation. As I inched closer to the end, I felt the tickle rise up in my throat. A dry cough mixed with a dry mouth from nearly 20 minutes of non-stop talking is not a good combination. All it took was one tiny cough to turn into a full on fit and I had to pause until I could breathe again. It was more than a little embarrassing, but I declined any cough drops or breaks, determined to power through. By the time I’d wrapped things up, the worst was behind me, and I was able to finish with a clear and satisfying “Thank you”. Letting out a trembling breath, I followed as everyone gathered around the table with my work, and we descended into Act III, the feedback.

In order to let go of the result and do my best to enjoy myself, I had emotionally prepared for any outcome. Good or bad, I was determined to end this semester with a smile, and by the time I stared down what would be the last critique of my college career, I really just wanted it to be fun. It was. I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun in a final critique. The jury was kind, thoughtful, and above all engaged in the work I had presented. It was hard not to feel a sense of pure jubilation as everyone seemed to genuinely enjoy discussing our work. My friend was up next and also gave a great presentation. Our department chair thanked everyone and then we were left to take down our work and process what had just happened. After my friend and I had picked ourselves up off the floor, we were whisked away by our Thesis professor for a cheeky celebratory drink. What had all the makings of a great day was elevated to one of the best as the sweet relief of a job well done began to sink in. After saying our goodbyes I crawled home and managed to make it to my bed before my legs gave out.

The next few days were spent in a sort of half hazy dream-like state as I emerged from the fog of Finals. It was like I’d been living in one world, and had now stepped into another. Suddenly, there were almost no pressing deadlines or urgent claims on my time. I was free. Thursday brought a host of errands and even an outing with the Cook Club team to celebrate the end of an era. Gosh it’s weird to even type, but I’m starting to believe that it’s all really over. Next week promises the arrival of family, friends, and Graduation, so I’ll be soaking up the sun and sleeping in late as much as I can in the meantime. The hard part’s over guys, now we get to enjoy.

Have fun!

f t p