Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes. Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward. Etc. Experience is sobering in a way no other perspective is. But though it may be the most effective teacher, it’s not always an unbiased one.
My school year so far has been deeply influenced by my junior year–a year of easy classes, lack of effort, and subsequent lower grades than normal, both in my Wabash classes and my semester abroad. Part of it had to do with the heavy presence of “requirement” classes in the fall semester…and in terms of the spring semester, I figured I had more important things to do than sit in my room and read. I was technically right, but intentionally avoided taking an awesome class, the subject material of which I’m growing more and more interested in, for fear of the workload. Lack of academic engagement is harsh cycle, because the less you work for classes, the less you care about them, and the less you care about them, the less you work for them. You either need a bulletproof mental attitude or demanding classes.
This semester, I have both, and have attacked my classes with fervor completely at odds with the typical college senior. I have never done this much homework on an average weekend. I don’t really take breaks; Fridays are a time for catching up on sleep, relaxing my eyes from staring at paper, and beginning Chemistry homework for Monday. I tailor my social schedule on Saturdays around natural breaks in my studying–work for 2 hours, break, then work again.
Part of this rhythm is due to the heavy concentration in my schoolwork to daily work. Chemistry is solely daily work, with the exception of a few tests. Latin and Greek is solely daily work, with the exception of one paper in Latin’s case. Classical Philosophy has gotten much easier to keep up with since the parts of Aristotle that we’re reading are much shorter than Plato’s dialogues. Roman Society used to be tied with Chemistry for the biggest daily workload, but since the “classroom” section of the course has been replaced by the “research paper” section, the routine but time-consuming homework has been replaced by the impending but flexible research paper–which still must meet deadlines, just not as many. Chemistry and Roman Society comprise the bulk of my time studying. The work, I think, is paying off. Usually at this point in the semester, I’ve fallen disastrously behind in readings for a certain class, or face the pressure to recover from a mediocre test or paper grade. But I’ve gotten As in generally everything except for Chemistry tests–the grades of which continuously improve.
So I’m finally a devoted student, the one I wasn’t junior year. But my devotion is costing me in other areas. I’ve written very little this semester. I haven’t written anything for the Commentary, despite constantly bouncing around two concrete article ideas in my head for the past month. I didn’t do College Mentors for Kids this year, partially because nearly my entire Thursday is already booked and because 4 of my 5 classes are MWF. I haven’t started any graduate school application work–it’s true that I don’t want to go straight to grad school anyway, but my post-Wabash plans are not nearly as material as they could be.
This is, for the most part, a conscious choice. This is my last year, and I don’t want to finish with the academic lethargy that colored my junior year. My past experience is driving my actions. I just hope it doesn’t drive me too far.