Words of Advice
I heard something fall out of a professor's mouth this morning that left me dumbfounded.
Running of the adrenaline of my morning cup of coffee and 2.7 hours of sleep, it was still dark out when I forged my path across campus to seek some much-needed advice about my final project, scheduled to be presented yesterday afternoon. Peering over my glasses with bloodshot eyes and a bad case of bedhead, I plopped myself down in my prof's office in just about the most desperate state I've ever experienced in my entire academic career.
In my hands was the ragged labor of the past 24 hours — my research project presentation that was the summation of a semester's worth of confusing and toiling work.
And as the problems with my project began to spill, in an awkwardly climatic moment I realized just how far off the mark I actually was. And with the prospect of failing miserably staring me in the face, I could feel the world crashing down on my shoulders.
"I wish you wouldn't worry about grades," my professor said, peering into my glasses.
Not exactly the words you expect to hear from your prof. Let's get real here — how many professors out there are going to tell you not to care? The entire reason I was sitting in this office at the crack of dawn shaking from consuming too many cans of Diet Coke was that I did care about grades — isn't that what good students do?
But my professor's point was that the bigger goal was enjoying the process of learning, not just the final reward. His point that students are enrolled in College to earn knowledge, not a cumulative statistic, was certainly the antithesis to my approach to academics so far. For a stressed-out, sleep-deprived college student, it was certainly an alluring approach.
Sadly, though, it is one that is only applicable in an ideal world.
As a scholarship student, I continually face the pressure of keeping the money that helps me attend Saint Mary's — the money that makes my family beam with pride and praise my academic accomplishments. To lose that would be to lose my grip on reality, and my grip on my college career. No matter how much I want to "simply enjoy learning" I simply can't — for me, the numbers matter.
But as I left that office, I began to tally some other numbers.
Since last Monday, I have composed 54 pages total for various classes, taken two tests and given a total of 1 hour and seven minutes in oral presentations. Since last Monday, I have ordered a total of three Papa John's pizzas and two orders of breadsticks past midnight. I have pulled two all-nighters. And since last Monday, I have slept for a total of 24 hours and 45 minutes — an average of 3.49 hours a night.
And I've hated every second.
While I will never be able to escape the pressure of my GPA, my prof did alert me to the fact that I need to start enjoying my life here a little more. Academics need to be less about the next deadline and more about learning the material. While the College does allot me a certain dollar amount so that I can come here, I pay the College an awful lot of money to be here, too.
But if it's costing my happiness? That's a price I'd rather not pay.
All Inside Stories for Tuesday, December 5, 2000