Pace of life allows no room for study
By JEFF LANGAN
As DART season and Thanksgiving approach, we can all start looking forward to the two weeks in February when we will actually be able to concentrate on our academic work. These days, with all the breaks and activities that take place during each semester, it is difficult to actually have the classes we are actually taking foremost on our mind.
Nobody works in September. Summer vacation just ended. We spend about two weeks talking about the summer, settling into classes and getting into the new football season. By mid-September to early October, the football season is in full swing, and we are already looking forward to Fall Break and whatever that might bring. Along the way, we have to write a paper or two and take a mid-term or two, but these are not important activities — they are blips on the screen compared with the parties, the job interviews, the dances and the clubs.
Of course, after Fall Break, you might say, we can really concentrate on classes. Not so fast! It takes a week to recover from Fall Break. Moreover, late October and early November provide important other diversions on top of the parties, the dances, the football games, etc. Everybody spends lots of time planning their classes for next semester. Ironically, we haven't even spent much time thinking about the ones we are currently taking, and we already start scheming about what to take next. As if concentrating too much on current classes would lead to serious mental disorders.
Of course, worrying about next semester's classes takes us right up to Thanksgiving week, which as a whole is a wash. Some people are even going home the Friday before Thanksgiving. Even if there are classes Thanksgiving week, turkeys and family reunions are foremost on our minds.
Then, we return from Thanksgiving. Now it's time to buckle down. In reality, however, the secular Christmas season has begun. (Isn't it ironic that the secular Christmas season ends with the Jan. 1 sales and then the winter depression hits, whereas the Christian Christmas season doesn't actually begin until Dec. 25 and takes us well into January? I bet it would be psychologically healthier, and of course spiritually healthier, to live according to Christian standards on this one. What better way to deal with the dead of winter?) Finals, given all the hustle and bustle of early December, become nothing more than a blip on our radar screen.
So we all take a month-long Christmas break. At the beginning of the break, we tell ourselves that during that period we will review and read all of those things we failed to review and read during the semester. We will even get a jump start on what is coming up next semester. Unfortunately, that usually turns out to be a pipe dream.
Jan. 15 rolls around, and it's time to get back to school. As in the first semester, it takes a week or two to settle down after the break, which brings us to the dreaded month of February. Outside of Valentine's Day, there are few distractions. So, we can all plan on two or three weeks in February in which classes are foremost on our mind.
Then March arrives. With March comes melting snow, spring break and March Madness. Classes soon become another blip on the radar. After spring break, we get to DART again (see above) and make room picks for next year. That takes us to mid-April, which of course also takes us to Easter.
After Easter, we are usually so close to the end of classes that nobody really takes finals seriously. Yes, we take them and everyone gets frantic over them, loses sleep, drinks too much caffeine, etc., but at bottom, that's just a show. What's really on everybody's mind is getting home, getting to that internship, getting to those travels or getting to that service project.
This is a problem because we spend the hours, days, weeks and months of our lives as students dreaming about and doing everything else but what is the most important thing in the present — getting a liberal education.
The current pace of life leads us to waste our time, to never really get out of our education what we should get out of it. It sets a dangerous pattern for living life because we will always find ourselves unhappy, anticipating that change, that move in the future that will set everything right. Or we will always look back on our past, regretting the time that was wasted, the time that we let slip by. Is our time here more than a bunch of activity interrupted by a two-week period of a chance to study?
Jeff Langan is a graduate student in the government department. His column appears every other Friday.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.
All Viewpoint Stories for Friday, November 19, 1999