This is the fifth and final post in a series for the Writing Blog by Patrick, a former writing mentor.
I hated Intro Spanish. I took it spring semester of my freshman year, and I hated it more than I’ve ever hated anything, more than new Simpsons, more than the idea that someday we will all die. I have absolutely no talent for languages, so I had no capacity to game the class; it was entirely memorization-based, which doesn’t lend itself well to last minute cramming; and I cannot stand speaking in class when I feel unsure of myself—I’m the type of person that composes his whole comment, diction and all, before I try to express it—which was what the entire class period consisted of. Five days a week. In the morning. I started skipping classes early on.
Things kind of progressed that semester along dramatic but comprehensible lines, considering what I’ve been writing about. Eventually, I stopped going to class entirely because I had done so little reading that I would never speak, and I would never speak because I had spoken so little that doing so would call attention to myself (“this is his first time speaking all semester”—classmates in my mind), and calling attention to myself was the last thing I wanted to do. First it was only Spanish, and then it was every class. I didn’t check my email for weeks, because I was sure I’d find emails forcing me to confront my negligible studenting. I didn’t talk to anyone about this—professors, peers, or administrators—for similar reasons. And the whole semester I kept expecting myself to, finally, get it all done and pull myself back into being a good student, and since I preferred the idea of that to asking for help, I allowed my behavior to progress naturally down that particular line and expected future Patrick to take care of it.
At the last possible moment, in May, I spoke to my Dean, and then the psychiatrist, and then I went on medical leave for depression (seemed like leaving the causes mysterious would overdramatize the story, which is not my intention). This accomplished the end of me not failing out—I withdrew from every class that I was failing in, though I took an incomplete in the one I thought I could still catch up in
It was good. I worked for a criminal defense lawyer, and it made me want to go back to school very much. However, what I didn’t do was the research paper for my incomplete course. Again, same cognitive means. I gave it to future self, but he had proved unreliable the last semester, and he let me down again, and there’s my F.
I found out much later that I could have withdrawn from that course too during my semester off, when I found myself incapable of the coursework. To find that out, though, I would have had to accept to myself that I wasn’t going to get things done, that I was going to let myself down. That’s hard to do, but I would have a much better GPA if I had asked for help. It’s there at Wesleyan, but only if you act in a timely fashion, and for that you need to treat the situation honestly.
Since then, I’ve worked harder. I still put way too much on future-Patrick, but he is not allowed to let me down anymore—it’s too indicative. And coming back, I honestly budgeted enough time to get my work done competently enough (with luck). I became more of a real person, because I made myself be so for every assignment. I had mixed results—yes, there are no clear turning points—but I didn’t fail again. It’s all a continuum.
This all probably reads like an after-school special. It’s not intended to. I’m not trying to scare you out of your study habits. I’m just asking you not to be delusional about them, and to plan accordingly.
Anyway, that’s all. Bye, Wes.