When I was younger, I loved learning. School was a place that cooperated with that passion, and it was something that I was able to balance with other aspects of my life, like personal hobbies and spending time with family.
I have matured and complexified over the years, and so has my relationship with attending school. It has become a means to an end — something to push through rather than something to look forward to.
I slowly came to terms with the limitations placed upon our individual freedoms in an education setting. These limitations are so naturally ingrained in us that we usually don’t question them in our daily lives.
School is dictated by schedules, deadlines, regulations and grades. With every lecture and assignment, we must be at certain places at certain times and adhere to the rules in place. But, every student is inherently different and this system of learning is more difficult for some to conform to than others.
It leads me to wonder — if I prioritize adherence to this structure, do I risk losing my passion for learning in the process?
If I know something is due, my main goal is to turn it in on time. Whether or not the material I produce is objectively “good,” whether or not I gain self-improvement from it and whether or not it showcases my learning doesn’t matter as much as submitting it by 11:59 p.m.
I’ve learned that I cannot allow myself to be quantified rather than qualified. I don’t understand grades as a measure of performance because they’re just numbers and letters. They do not tell the full story.
The system could disconnect us from learning, and we may begin to hate attending school because it is so mentally draining. The amount of time we contribute to school takes away time for socializing, engaging in personal projects, relaxing and enjoying life on one’s own terms.
Thus, it has come to my attention that a sense of balance is in order. School should not be something divorced from pleasure. It is possible for the two to coexist.
But how can that balance be achieved? I have a few ideas.
My first tip is to find connections between your classes, no matter how different they are. And if this is impossible, try to connect the concepts in your classes with your personal life experiences and values. Translate what you have to learn to a language you can understand, even if that language doesn’t necessarily work for anyone else. Make it work for you.
My next tip is to be confident about your ignorance. Ask questions even if they seem stupid. Admit that you need help sometimes. Everyone does. If you’re taking any classes with unfamiliar content, you have the right to advocate for your learning instead of struggling quietly or ignoring problems because they’re too overwhelming.
My third tip is to take care of your physical health. Figure out a sleep schedule that works with your other obligations, and try your best not to get in the habit of sacrificing health for anything. Having a charged, fully functioning brain is an invaluable asset for a successful semester.
Lastly, my most important piece of advice is to acquire clarity of purpose. Take the time to think about why you’re really in college. The answer is a little bit different for everyone.
Have a self-guided attitude, and remember that you are doing this for yourself. Do not simply focus on how your studies may improve your future or how your academic performance may grant you validation from others. Try to focus on how you can make the most of every day in the present for yourself.
Know that you’re not wasting your valuable time coasting through something. This present period shouldn’t be miserable just so that the future could potentially be less miserable. Nobody knows what the future will be like because it hasn’t happened yet. But we are always in the present, so we should make it enjoyable.
Sometimes it is difficult to conform to the system or even admit that it can be difficult because conformity is what is expected of us. So until our generation radically changes society, it is imperative to have a healthy mindset toward your obligations.
If school is the main priority in our lives right now, why not work with it? School shouldn’t be this burden to get through each week, but it also shouldn’t be low on the priority list in favor of enjoying life. It should be somewhere in between.
You owe it to yourself to make the most of your time on earth. With the proper attitude toward each semester, you can find a balance that works for you no matter what the system throws your way.