Today I am working out of a community college library. I do that sometimes. When you work from home, the house gets stale. So, you mix it up with various coffee shops and libraries to keep the energy flowing.
But today, I was listening to these college kids study. It sounded like a science class. But they recited their facts to one another, trying to make it stick. And I thought about my days doing such activities. I thought less about college and more about high school.
I remember anxiously studying for exams, brow furrowing with sweat. I remember dreaded reading assignments of reading half a chapter of a textbook two or three times a week.
I thought I was such a martyr having to take notes on really what amounted to about three or four pages that were subtitled, with bolded vocabulary words.
I remember the dreaded, “White Paper,” in tenth grade honors history. We were each assigned a country, and given a hot button political issue for that country. We spent a month of class time researching the issue, and painstakingly creating a research paper regarding that issue. I think it was supposed to be about four double spaced pages.
Tenth grade English included several five paragraph essays in preparation for state assessment testing. We would write an essay about every month. The first few we would spend all of this energy and work into pre-writing and graphing and organizing. Whole folders full of notes and worksheets on how to do an essay.
I can write a five paragraph essay in about fifteen minutes. (I’m not exaggerating, I did one for an open-ended question on a job application once. I actually pulled a receipt out of my purse, did a quick diagram on the back, and then answered the question with a proper five paragraph essay, all while sitting in an office lobby. I got the job).
I remember Junior English, was known throughout the school for the “research paper.” You had to read a piece of literature and write a five page paper on what scholars thought it meant. We spent the first half of the term learning how to do this, and the second half of the term doing it. It was supposed to be about 1,000 words.
This was all supposed to be a brutal undertaking. Now I just look back and laugh. Really?!
When I arrive at work each morning, the first tasks of my day, include skimming somewhere around 10-12 news articles and analyzing their sometimes complex content, all within about an hour. Then, I use them to write three to four articles a day–each one the equivalent of this “Junior Research paper”—a multi-sourced 1,000 word piece on a complex political issue, with graphics. This means finding and reading somewhere between six to eight “sources” a piece, and skimming them for content so quickly there’s not even time for note taking.
And at the end of the day, I’m a little tired. But, then I wake up and start it again. My point is, I thought I had it so hard back in school. If I would have known then what I knew now, I wouldn’t have whined and complained and bucked and procrastinated. I would have known that life is a matter of hard work and self-discipline. There are no shortcuts to success. You just have to power through. School is by far the easiest part of your life. If you’re in it, savor it. Cause it’s only uphill from here.
Then again, I still whine and complain and buck and procrastinate. But I get it done. So maybe I haven’t changed all that much.