A year out from school and I’ve become less anxiety driven and able to psychologically handle and reflect on my experiences in college. Most of the points arise from academic pressures. Ultimately, the underlying idea that drives good work is good strong study and (hard) study habits and thinking. On reflection, the reason why I succeeded in some courses is because I was not afraid to ask for help and then I worked hard at it. The reason why I did poorly in biology and chemistry is because I thought, it had to come naturally to me. In fact, when asked why I wasn’t a chemistry major by a fellow older chemistry major, I exasperated, “Make me better at chemistry! And I also commented, I’m glad the prof is tired, that gives me more leeway.” My thinking reflected that I was supposed to be naturally good at something. The better idea is to believe that I start where I start, but I need to move up by incorporating “low-hanging-fruit” habits, thinking hard, working diligently, and not being afraid to ask for help.
“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.” — Letter to John Quincy Adams, 1780
Confused about concepts?: Sometime in school, I get confused about what’s important. I forget that I’ve shelled out thousands of dollars so I can learn, but instead I fall for something cheap. I fall for… being liked. I fall for being lazy and thinking that I can depend on my witty remarks of…getting by. I need to remind myself that the people I admire the most, the strongest, most interesting, well-spoken people that I admire. They are all really good at what they do. And really, that is the reason why I like them so much. i admire them for their craft. And i too want to hone my craft. So let’s do that. Be really good at what you do and maybe people will even like you naturally.
School: I always thought I need more friends, or something along those lines. Therefore, as time wore on, I invested more time in time with others over my school work. This fed into my self-image of being academic and social. I think, in an academic setting, if you’re academically successfully, the social works follow. Therefore, I should always always always remember and remind my self whenever I’m in a school setting. Why am I here again? How expensive is tuition? Besides, Nietzsche was academically successful but not relationship happy. The point is, friendships are for fun, academic settings are for learning. Don’t get the two mixed up.
Anxiety: I felt very anxious in many of my school classes but I was unable to succinctly and coherently explain myself to anyone. This only contributed further to my anxiety. Most of my anxiety was academically rooted, therefore, (see below). However, also do a realistic and honest audit of work habits. Then, build systems of work habits that encourage higher efficiency and more sleep.
Reading and Understanding: I’m cleaning my files and looking at old papers. I was always afraid of what could go wrong instead of how I could grow so I didn’t reflect on how to improve my writing and thinking. Note to self: If I’m afraid or feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breathe and a step back and ask, “What’s the big picture and key points? What’s a chapter heading? Are there chapter summaries, as there often are in the back/front of a section? What’s the (implicit) question they’re asking here?” Do this every 30 minutes or every 15 minutes whenever you’re reading. Mentally highlight key words and phrases. Aim to read things twice. But read both times carefully.
Writing: Good writing not only reflects but also stems from clear thinking. My best academic papers arose from a solid understanding of the text and the question posed. Political science was the class I was most afraid of, but also least afraid to ask for help. I wrote solid A papers in that course mostly because I sought out help to help me outline the differences and similarities of key concepts in the reading, outlining the main arguments of my papers. A French professor noted in a writing handout that the outline is the central element behind a good paper. I don’t know if I refused to believe her recommendation, just ignored it, or didn’t understand. She is absolutely correct. Another fellow classmate who I admired for their academic excellence wrote the 1 page response paper 1 hr before class started and pulled off great grades because he thought carefully about what he was going to write before he sat in front of the computer. I, on the other hand, stared at the reading repeatedly but didn’t think about what the author was saying and expected my response paper to appear just by repeated staring. Maria from Sound of Music was correct: “Strength lies in nights of peaceful slumbers/When you wake up — Wake Up!”. How do you actively think about something? Outline it, ask conclusions they make and how the evidence supports their claims. Good writing has a good skeleton/frame which is set up in in the initial construction of the outline.