I have a habit of what some might deem to call “self-destructive” academic behavior. My first year in college was my best academically, but after that it was all downhill. For a long time I’ve thought there is something wrong with me. I like college, I like taking classes, I dread a 9-5 cubicle job, I enjoy learning and exploring and arguing and growing. So why don’t I do my work? Last year, first semester it reached a pretty major low point when, through a series of bad decisions and coincidences, I got placed on academic probation.
The thing is, even before college I behaved like this. In high school, and probably in junior high as well (although I don’t really remember) I often waited until the last minute on assignments, didn’t do the readings, etc., etc. But I was always able to coast by and just make it through. There were a few exceptions. Biology AP was a bit problematic, and Calc BC was pretty darn bad. But I got by. Things were pretty structured, there wasn’t too much work, and I’m a fairly intelligent guy who can usually figure things out.
In college its harder, because the requirements are different — more direct participation, essays that need to actually say something more then just regurgitating a few facts and snippets of pre-determined analysis. Lots and lots of readings. A lot more of a hands-off attitude by teachers (i.e. not constantly checking in with pop quizzes and worksheets to make sure you’re keeping up). And my thinking is, maybe this just isn’t my thing.
It’s a pretty simple notion. People are cut out to do different types of things. We have different strengths and weaknesses. And despite how much I love the idea of education, I feel I can state, in my senior year of college, that this just isn’t right for me.
When I get interested in something, or excited about something — a project, an idea, a job — I can go at it non-stop for hours, days, weeks. When I can see forward progress, when I can make a positive contribution, when I can have concrete results, I do great. My experience has proven to me that I can be really good at focusing on things, and not just little things, even big complex things. On strategizing, on managing, on meeting, on working hard, on making shit happen. But I just can’t do the types of tasks and work in the way of working that college seems to demand. Part of it is that it is impossible to do all of the reading, and I’m just not very good at figuring out how to skim and skip and “cheat” such that I do enough of it to be effective. Part of it is that many of the readings I find long, boring, unenjoyable, and uninteresting. But a lot of it, I think, is that I just don’t work this way.
We’re all programmed different ways, we all have different ways of thinking and acting. And the way I’m programmed doesn’t square with what I’m doing. I think that’s why I find Student Union to be such an interesting and educational experience. I’ve learned, through my time in the Student Union, what type of worker I am. I’ve learned what type of work makes me happy, and how I can be effective at it. I’ve learned that I can really care about a cause and really work to make things better, and that when I’m surrounded with people who care as much as I do, I’m forced to constantly be at my best. By the same token, when there are people around me who do not have the same level (and type) of dedication, my inner cynic comes out, and I lose all my effectiveness.
So the problem is, I have to graduate from this place. In case you were wondering, I’ve dropped the whole thing about getting straight A grades. My subconscious did it to me, actually, when it worked so hard to ensure that I messed up my first test of the year by mixing up the dates. But I’m okay with that. I’m not worried about GPA any more. I know others in my family are. I know my grandparents will continue to be disappointed that I’m not living up to the commitment I made in exchange for having gotten the chance to go to Brandeis in the first place. I know that I’m, in some respects, abusing the circumstances of my birth that have allowed me to go as far as I have. But personally, I’m okay with it. I think that what I’m doing, the direction I’m heading in, is whats best for me, and, at the same time, what is best for the world. I hope people get that I don’t mean that at all in a narcissistic way.
Gotta not fail out of school. Gotta pass my classes. Gotta figure out how best to do these things now that I’ve finally admitted to myself that I just don’t care about this stuff, that its just something I need to get through so that I can go on to better things. Hmm. Ponder.
Still trying to figure out what kind of a job I want.