Would you rather get the hard stuff out of the way quickly or just wait until it comes?
Before my professor could finish her sentence asking for volunteers to write the first response papers for next week, my hand and several others had already shot up in the air in an attempt to seize the opportunity. Perhaps, taken aback, the professor reframed the question and this time said, “okay, let’s do this again, but only raise your hand if you are particularly excited about writing on next week’s topic.”
Is there anything special about writing one’s paper first? No, not really. What was next week’s topic? Don’t know, don’t care. Either way, I knew I was going to raise my hand no matter what. The professor selected me and one other student to take on the task of presenting first and I silently congratulated myself for no apparent reason.
For as long as I can remember, I have had this sort of “rush to finish” attitude about things. Somehow, I have retained a memory from kindergarten that highlights this. When I was in kindergarten, we drew pictures like it was our job. For example, I remember one assignment was to color three pictures on one page — one of ourselves as a baby, another as a kid, and the third as an adult. I drew myself with a triangle-shaped body and crazy hair. However, I must have focused a bit too hard on the finer details because I remember having to rush to complete the assignment. The next day, after our teacher, let’s call her Mrs. Black, reviewed our assignments, she told us that many of us had missed the point of the task — we were supposed to show growth in our drawings. She pointed out that babies, children, and adults are, in fact, not the same size and shape (go figure). I, like many of my classmates, failed to represent the three figures in a way that symbolized the passage of time and development of the human form. Then, Mrs. Black picked up the pictures and publicly shamed the drawings where the baby, kid, and the adult were nearly identical — my drawing was in the naughty pile (boo hoo…I’m not bitter, I swear).
On another occasion, I remember overhearing Mrs. Black speaking to my mother about my performance in the kindergarten class. Overall, Mrs. Black said that I was doing well, I followed directions, but — and this is a big fat “but” — I often rushed to complete my “work,” (you know, with dire consequences… like not always coloring in the lines). While this might have sounded like a trivial critique, I know deep in my heart that Mrs. Black was onto something….
Anyway, flashforward to grad school and I have not changed. I still rush to finish things and I still strive to get things done well before they are due. Similarly, just like when I was five years old, I still make comprehension mistakes and subsequent execution errors. Even though I know this about myself, I still like to do things quickly (however, at least now, two decades later, I have a more robust system for checking my work).
Sometimes, I wonder where this let’s-get-this-done-ASAP mentality will lead to. If I get all my major assignments done this month, it’s not as if I can just waltz out of the semester a few weeks early. Is there even a point to graduating early if my grad-student deal is a good one and I have no god-flipping idea about what I want to do next? Probably not.
I don’t think people change, not really. They certainly learn, and grow, and can become much “better” versions of themselves, but you can’t turn a hare into a tortoise or vice versa. I’m never going to be the person who is reading and re-reading carefully typed words for weeks on end, putting off submission until the final seconds. I’m not as careless as I once was (I’ve grown) but I still want to get work done sooner rather than later (but I haven’t changed).
Regardless, when it comes to grad school and other life adventures, I push myself to take the time to just stop and smell the dry-erase markers. I’m here today as a student. I won’t be a student forever or for even very long and that is precious. Although the days can drag on and I wish so badly to have my coursework behind me, one day, most everything will be behind me, and I hope not to regret my haste. Instead, I will thank myself for writing this post and for encouraging myself (and you) to just stop… and… take… it… ALL…in. For not everything lasts and even some of the bad things don’t feel so bad when you look at them in hindsight.
Anyway, I finished my essay early (quelle surprise), but I also tried to be careful in my consideration of the question and diligent in my writing. Quality is more important than how early the assignment is submitted after all.
I’m going to keep enjoying this semester and this life one day at a time.
Dear Reader, I hope you will uncover all the love and joy that this moment has to offer you.