2013: A New Beginning?

So it’s official. We are all alive and well, which means we’ve made it to another new year and the beginning of a new semester. Congrats! I’m sure you made adult school look like child’s play.

It is almost an absolute certainty that all of you have spent your time flipped upside down and sliding off the edge of your couch this holiday season. So with all the information so carefully tucked between your ears for safekeeping until the day when you need it (give or take… never) let the question be posed: was there anything worth keeping between those ears? That is, did you learn anything?

Now, that is not an invitation for a review of any science, mathematics, or literature class you may have attended. Or maybe it is if that’s all you’ve learned, but then I wouldn’t suggest sticking around for much longer. You see, that’s why it’s adult school – not just because you live alone, or perhaps with annoyed parents working two jobs to pay for it, but because you learn more than just the facts you hear in class. Or at least, you’re meant to learn more than that.

So let’s review, shall we?

The first lesson one may have learnt this year is the importance of sleep.  I really do think the bell rings true when I say we’ve all learned how much we really need to lay our heads down on a pillow, close our eyes, and just shut off for a while.  It’s a necessity. Quit pretending you have something better to do; even the workaholics need some z’s. But let’s also call it as we see it: too much is too much. It’s almost guaranteed you will feel gut-wrenchingly sick to your stomach if you go to bed at ten then wake up near noon. At that point you will most definitely have better things to do. Try not to pass out after a marathon session at your computer screen: that is a surefire way to make those pleasant hours of bliss much harder to reach and full of headaches; read a book instead before drifting off.

This year was all about trying to get back to normal for a lot of us, having just had the strike ad all. With that came the realization that as all the work of your course load gets piled on top of you, there is not going to be a randomly selected time when all of it will stop and allow you to catch your breath. Just like in the real world we hear about so often (I’m beginning to understand it’s like the horizon in its ideology) these things just come at you, then whiz past, with or without you. The key is to take on that work or those personal errands head-on, and do them now: grab on as they pass by and see where it all leads. Waiting until you are moments away from the deadline to try and make things happen only accomplishes filling a river with your tears and nothing more.  What’s worse is you get about half of the mark you could have accomplished at best.

But it isn’t only your work ethic that has been enlightened.  Some, especially those of you still in the first year of your studies, spent first term learning your limits. How much homework can be handled? How many hours are you willing to spend studying? How many different avenues can you explore before you implode? It seems like there’s this urgent rush to get out into the world, such a rush that we take as many courses as we can, then one or two part-time jobs on the top to pay for all this. For some, this worked just fine, while others either saw it all come crashing down or made it through bordering on the edge of insanity all the while.  In this way, the second term can and should act as a sort of second chance: a way to start things anew. If you are in the group that nearly lost it towards the end, even just a little bit, it’s time to sit down and reflect.  Don’t just reflect on the work ethic. Reflect on you and your choice to take this load. Can you handle it? Why not, or why so? Are you at all interested in these courses or this faculty? It’s all right to say no. If you do, it is not absolute.  You are not saying you can’t handle university or another kind of secondary education. What you are saying is that you’ve tried something and it just wasn’t for you, not at this time anyways. Even more important than the outcome of this introspection is the process itself: the process of sitting down, looking at what you’ve done and accomplished, what you haven’t, and deciding what you can change to make the cycle run smoother.

Overall, there are many things we’ve discovered this past year. Be it within ourselves, others, or the world itself, it’s all important. These three are just a sample of the few things we should take note of and carry with us into 2013.

Republished from The Quill print edition, Volume 103, Issue 16, January 8, 2013.