Sometimes our minds get stuck in quicksand, and the more effort we give to certain thoughts, the farther we sink, eventually losing sight of the light of day and the many wonderful things beyond this muddy spot.
That’s how I’ve been feeling about the rest of my semester, one class in particular. It’s after 5pm and I’ve done nothing today but brood over the work I should be doing this weekend. I have an exam in my Sustainable Energy class on Monday, and because I missed a week of class and was generously pardoned from doing the related homework, I am completely unfamiliar with the material covered, which is half of what the exam will cover. To be prepared for this exam, I should go through the homework problems and also review another chapter the exam will cover that I’m not very confident with. But the thought of this is daunting, and I feel completely burnt out from this semester and not able to concentrate on these hefty concepts. I want to just not bother and take a failing grade, but that thought is where the quick-sand analogy comes in. I’ve spent quite a bit of time today thinking about this exam. These were my thoughts:
I’ve been working doubly hard at school so that I can do as well as I do when I’m healthy, not taking the time to see friends or look into extracurriculars/hobbies that I could physically manage right now. All I do is school-sleep-school-sleep, and I’m not sure that’s the way to go about it. I think I should have a more balanced life, where I don’t do as well in school. I haven’t gotten any test grades below a B or homework grades below a C this semester…I’m doing the same as I would when healthy, which I think means that I’m putting too much pressure on myself. If I’m ever to do badly in school, it’s this semester. I have an exam on Monday in my Sustainable Energy class. I just looked at the practice exam, and I would certainly fail if I took it now; two of the problems have to do with the two classes I missed last week, another is on a subject I was in class for but am not very confident with, and the fourth problem I actually do know…I think. The thought of catching up is extremely overwhelming.
I have a hard time with the idea of getting a D or lower from not studying. It’s partly because I’m used to studying hard and doing well, but also because I feel like it’s disrespectful to the professors to not do my best, and also because I chose this class in order to learn the material, and aren’t I wasting my time if I just throw the books aside for an exam?
At the end of the semester, I can see myself laughing off a bad grade, especially when it only moves my GPA a smidgen, and I think I will feel somewhat liberated; it will be like getting the first stain on a new couch, and now we can all worry less about spilling because it’s been done before, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. And we’ll laugh at how silly we were for being so uptight about keeping drinks away from the couch.
But during the semester, time moves slowly and painfully. I’m going to have to sit through that exam, feel lost, and guiltily turn in the exam early because I don’t know how to answer half the questions. And then we’ll get the exams back, and I’ll feel bad for making the professor bother to grade mine.
And another thing is, I worry that if I do badly now, that’s the end – if I lose my motivation now, I won’t be able to put effort into the next assignments. I especially feel anxious about the final project – what will that be? Will I be able to do it well and on time?
These were the thoughts I wrote down earlier today. Do you feel buried under quicksand just from reading this?
So I have to get myself out of this quicksand. It helps when I picture myself with family at Thanksgiving dinner, which is next week. It helps to picture myself hanging out with friends, who although I haven’t seen much of this semester, are still there; good times are not lost.
I also have to trust that my motivation will not be lost forever even if I lose it for this class. I have to trust that I will find my way – that my colon will get healthy and my mind will get centered. It is sometimes difficult to believe that these things are possible, but that is a difficulty I need to overcome above all other difficulties.
It helps to picture myself saying later in life, “In college, there was a semester where my colitis was really acting up, and I was sick and upset and tired, and the the class I was looking forward to the most was the one I ended up getting a D in.” Rather than it being a dark memory, I know that it will just be a ‘hey, that’s life’ kind of thing and really it will not matter in the long run.
In the fourth grade, the floppy disk I had saved my homework on wasn’t working on the school computer, so I couldn’t print the assignment, which I needed to turn in that day, and I started crying. A substitute teacher who had always kind of scared me came over to me and asked what was wrong, and then she asked, “In ten years, will this matter?” And I knew that it wouldn’t, and I never forgot this philosophy.
Of course, that was just fourth grade, and this is college, and this is a bigger assignment, but the philosophy of the question I was asked in the fourth grade holds true. How well or badly I do in this class will not matter in 10 years; there are much more important things in life.
But despite believing this, this is the present, not 10 years in the future, and it’s not Thanksgiving break yet, and I’m not surrounded by friends, and my colon is not healthy and my mind is not centered. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m in the tunnel!
I’m taking more steps to get out of my mind, though. Tomorrow, I’m going to a meditation class at Boston Shambhala, which I just recently found out about, and it’s within walking distance from my apartment!
I’m not sure what this weekend or Monday will bring. It’s now past 6pm, and I planned on finishing an assignment for my Probability class today. I guess I’ll start it tonight and finish it tomorrow, and tomorrow I will put at least an hour into studying for the Sustainable Energy exam, which might bring me into the D range. I guess I’m saying that I pretty much am giving up on this exam. I can hear you saying, “Roxanne! That’s not like you! You can do better than that! Come on, just study a little more!” But I can’t. I’m burnt out, and there’s not enough time for me to sleep and study and take breaks, all of which I need. Colitis is a very real excuse, and I do not feel guilty. This is the best I can do.
And guess what – after the exam I’ll be on Thanksgiving break! I’ll have some work to do then, but it’s work that I’m somewhat looking forward to, as long as I have the energy to do it. And once back from break, there’s just a week and a half left of classes. There’s not much that can be assigned in that amount of time! The thought of the final project is still wildy scary, but I’ll just deal with that when it comes.
I do feel a little better now, seeing the timeline, and from declaring my thoughts and intentions. I can feel the warmth of the light at the end of the tunnel.