Thursday, November 28, 2013


12:39 AM Posted by Patrick 4 comments
I just turned in my first late paper. Ever.

It is not that I could not have had it done earlier. It is not that I did not have sufficient time, or that there was anything particularly unfair or difficult about the assignment. It is not that the entire universe is so interested in my failure that the fates themselves conspired against me. Oddly enough, neither was it laziness. I have certainly kept myself busy semester.

What, then, was it?

The due date on the paper had moved a couple times, and I thought I had the final one, but it had, in fact, moved two days earlier. So my paper was due yesterday, Tuesday the 26th, 2013. The funny thing is, I realized this in what would normally be enough time for me to throw ten pages together in a frantic effort.

I worked on the paper yesterday, but not the same way I would have three years ago, or even a year ago. I worked on it, accepting that it might indeed have to be a day late when I delivered the finished product. It would mean a middling penalty on the grade, nothing too terrible, and it seemed to me a better path than totally ignoring my recently arrived Shewoof and Helen and Even and flogging myself to the finish. I would have two years ago, so why not now?

It is not that I find the subject uninteresting. It was a book review over a rather fantastic book, and I felt like the review I wrote had valid points. The topic was good, my writing was good, and the greatest challenge was keeping it short enough. Nonetheless, my passionate perfectionism was absent.

Looking back on this semester, I have done quite a bit of reading, writing, and extra academic work for fun, but my assignments have seemed almost odious to me. I have finally come full circle to where I started. My curiosity is sufficient, and I no longer feel the need for a guiding hand in my learning. I will not pretend that I believe myself to be more learned than my professors, but I have a solid enough grasp of my disciplines that I feel capable of pursuing the details on my own.

Also, during my senior seminar, I felt like I set a new bar for myself. I had done serious research on sources not yet examined in my field of study. My senior thesis still needs serious work, and it would require countless pages of reading over the ten thousand that I already did before I could ever treat my topic satisfactorily, nonetheless, everything I write now is going to stand in light of that more sophisticated work.

Arbitrary does not seem like quite the right word, but the cookie cutter assignments handed out in college classes no longer have the same importance or urgency in my eyes. Sure, I can understand the usefulness of a good grade, but I have also been trained to despise the grade for grades sake mentality. I am at school to learn, and when I learn nothing additional from an assignment, it gives me cause to question. When I feel that I am expending time and energy that could be used on learning, or leisure, on producing something of questionable value, it gives me cause to question.

What is the point?

Once upon a time the point was to prove myself. Not to be too smug, but I have done that many times over now, and I do not feel that repeating similar tasks is proving much more. I like these people, and I want their respect, but I have done this on a darn near perfect track record for 4 years, while working on the side. I know I can, they know I can.

I have come to the point of repetition. I am going through the motions, and I hate it.

I still enjoy the lectures for the most part, but there are starting to be more and more bits--not to say whole topics--which are already well known. I do not mind when a great lecturer retreads familiar territory, but when I have been there half a dozen times? It all gets to be a bit much.

I do not know if my case is like all others, but I am fairly certain that I have senioritis. I feel like life is waiting on the completion of my undergrad, and that schooling is now taking place where I was being educated before. I am checking boxes to get to the finish, and what is worse, I know that I am just checking the boxes, which leaves me dissatisfied, both with my tasks, and with myself.

There is work worth doing, but so long as there are hoops, the work must wait.

 Also, the priority of school in relation to everything else is not so clear as it once was. Is studying for a quiz in a topic unrelated to my disciplines actually more important than a night out with friends? Is a paper deadline more important than time with out of town family? Is it actually more important than work? At least my contributions at work over the last week will go toward securing the revenue of our store, and thus, the jobs of the employees. The hours I spent pushing thousands of pieces of extra merchandise to the floor will have a result which mans something for people outside of myself. Can I say the same thing about the book review?

I am done agonizing about my grades on such things. I will produce the material, and I will produce it in line with my standards as a writer and historian, but I cannot see it as so important any longer. I want to be done. I want the expense and the time drain to end. I now have the tools to study and understand history, so why the farce.

I am further embittered by the fact that I do not get to take soviet history, but I must take World in the 20th Century. I mean, get real. Interesting history I don't actually know oodles about vs more repetition. Argh!

And so we come to the turn.

For all the stupidity that I feel like I am dealing with right now, I am wiser and better educated now than when I arrived on campus. I am bored now, only because I was challenged, guided, and sometimes dragged to greater analytical and technical skill in my previous years with these same professors. I am fortunate to have enjoyed the benefit of their attentions, and I would not have been what I am now without them.

What I am now is a slightly sarcastic, perhaps sometimes lackadaisical, and always exceedingly clever young historian, who they know full well is beyond their little games and who is waiting as long as humanly possible to tell them that he is going to use their grad school application advice to apply for MBA programs.

So many lessons learned during school. Most important lesson: be practical.