This morning, as my dad was driving me to the train station, he noticed a construction truck with its lights flashing parked on the side of the road. Good thing I saw that, he said, I was going a little fast until it reminded me to slow down, getting pulled over would’ve ruined my day. I said that it would’ve put a damper on mine, too, because if he got pulled over I would have surely missed my train to work. He proceeded to recite a lengthy lecture about the dangers of speeding, which I normally would have ignored, except he ended it with a phrase that stuck with me: haste makes waste.
Recently, I had been thinking out loud, and had found myself saying the same thing. When I was a freshman in college, I took two classes that were connected in what my school calls a ‘first-year interest group.’ These two classes, Power and Politics & Intro to Philosophy, were taught by the same two professors, populated with the same kids, and were held back-to-back. By the time Politics was over and Philosophy was beginning, most of the class was drained. Our professors would assign a reading, and spend the whole class discussing it, calling on random students. By the middle of the semester, most of the class had stopped doing the reading, and sitting through the class discussion was painful for everyone. Because of this, I started making a point to thoroughly do the reading – because I felt just plain awkward spending an hour and a half in a silent classroom three times a week. By the end of the semester, I had earned a 100% average in both classes. This was the first time that I had ever received perfect grades, because in high school I was nowhere near as dedicated as I had become in college. My professors pulled me aside and encouraged me to consider a double major in Philosophy. I loved the idea, and immediately made it a reality.
I had always thought being a double major was going to be extremely difficult (because if it wasn’t, wouldn’t everyone do it?) so I signed up for Winter and Summer courses in an attempt to get ahead. I thought I was going to be doing a lot more work, but I was still eager to have the accomplishment on my resume. By the end of my sophomore year, I began to notice that a lot of the requirements for my Politics major were the same for Philosophy, and after taking classes during two Winter terms and two Summer terms, I was set to graduate as a junior. Wait, what? I looked over the course bulletins and the major requirements a few more times, and I hadn’t been mistaken. I accidentally put myself in a position to graduate early. Most people would have been ecstatic! I, on the other hand, had no interest in graduating early at all, and saw this as an opportunity for a third major. I had already been pursuing Sociology as a minor, so I figured why not make the most of my (outrageously expensive) tuition? I talked to my advisor and the next day, I was officially considered a triple major. Then, I noticed Criminal Justice courses were often cross-listed with my Sociology courses, and I decided to look up the minor requirements for CJ. And what do you know, I was only two classes away. Enter Criminal Justice Minor.
Now, at this point in the story, I’m a junior with a triple major in Politics, Philosophy, and Sociology, with a minor in Criminal Justice. So, naturally I decided that I could handle one more thing: the paralegal certificate program. Prior to my junior year, I had always envisioned myself going to law school directly after graduation. That thought became less realistic after adding a third major, an after-school job, and a Vice President position in Delta Gamma. A year off between college and law school seemed to suit me better, so I would have time to study for my LSATs. But, because I had no plans on being a legal secretary forever, yet didn’t want to stop working at my firm, I chose to pursue my paralegal certificate.
Because I’ve added so much to my plate, I am taking three classes this Summer term, and seven classes next semester, including one four-hour class on Saturdays. It’s a lot, but I wouldn’t change a thing about it. And to be honest, I very rarely find it too overwhelming or too difficult to handle, and I’ll tell you why: I understand that haste makes waste.
When I was younger, especially in high school, I didn’t pursue anything that I wasn’t immediately good at. If it didn’t come easy to me, I didn’t have any interest in doing it. For this reason, I was an average student at best. I didn’t want to put any more effort in than I had to, and it definitely reflected in my grades, but I didn’t care. I would skim the reading so I could answer enough of the questions, I would study for tests but blow off quizzes, and the last thing on my mind was retaining the information that we were learning in class. I was concerned about completion only. And, you know what? I’ve come to realize that half-ass-ing my work was a big, fat waste of my time. And it made my time SO much more difficult, too! I would become so frustrated when I didn’t understand something, but I wouldn’t try to learn it the right way, either.
When I thought about college, I had always assumed that it was going to be extremely hard, and I pictured myself sitting in the classrooms not understanding anything that was going on. Not because I wasn’t smart enough, but because I hadn’t built myself the foundation that most people did in high school. I was determined to change the way I learned; if I have to pay $45k a year, I was going to make the most of it even if it killed me.
So, I did the reading. I didn’t concentrate on bullshitting my assignments, instead I focused on actually comprehending them. I was over feeling dejected when I couldn’t learn something, and I began to see it as a challenge instead. Prior to changing my attitude about school, I had been easily influenced by slackers in the classroom. I tried to get out of any and all assignments that I could while still maintaining a sufficient average. I would write myself dismissal notes and leave school all the time.
Now, I’m the nerd that reads every single assignment. Twice. With a highlighter.
And let me tell you, when you just do something right the first time, you would not believe how much easier learning comes. I don’t find school difficult anymore, and I actually enjoy it. For as long as I can remember, I had been absolutely horrible at math. Or, at least, I thought I was. I always assumed that I was “just an English-and-History person,” and that it “wasn’t for me.” Sometimes the thought of upper level math would literally bring me to tears. But guess what: when I put my mind to succeeding in that Statistical Analysis class last semester, you better believe I got an A. I went to office hours every single time they were held, I asked a thousand questions, I sent drafts of assignments before they were due, and I worked for that A as hard as I could.
By actually dedicating time to my assignments, I found that I was succeeding so much more than I ever thought possible. I could have easily been an average student forever, but after I chose to change the way I was performing in school, I don’t even view a B+ as a sufficient grade unless I know I tried my absolute hardest.
So, finally, my advice to you is: do the damn reading! Yeah, it’s boring. And yeah, I know you don’t care about Intro to Literature, neither did I. But picture that frustrated, exasperated, anxious feeling you get when it’s 11:30pm, your assignment is due at midnight, and you just can’t reach 500 words because you didn’t actually read. All of the time spent worrying about getting your work done could have been saved by just doing it in the first place. It took me a very long time to realize this. Sometimes I still try to find an easy way out of completing my work, and every time I do it, I’m reminded of why that doesn’t work – I’m left annoyed, regretting my decision to procrastinate so much in hopes that I could just bullshit my whole paper. If you had told me three years ago that I would be blogging about schoolwork advice, I would have never believed you. But, if I told my classmates and professors that three years ago, I was a huge slacker who forged signatures to skip school, they wouldn’t believe me, either.
Who you are right now is not who you’re always going to be. So, work hard. Remember that acting hastily and attempting to hurry through work (or even through life) won’t get you as far as actually participating will. Haste makes waste, and I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste a second.