Homework sucks. Well, no. I understand it from a reasonable perspective. If I only attended class, even if I listened really carefully and took diligent notes, I wouldn’t learn much. Most of the substance comes from reading, reflecting, writing…all of that. I get it. Really I do. But for some reason homework brings on this unwelcome sense of dread and anxiety.
I think it goes back to when homework started picking up – maybe 4th grade. I used to expect to be finished with all of my assignments by about 7pm. So when Jeopardy was coming on in the living room, and I still had more than one assignment left to finish, I would freak out. It would start with biting my nails, progress to a racing heart, and finally escalate to full-blown tears. It was insane. My mother would explain that I was only wasting more time with my freak out. But I couldn’t be reasoned with. I was already convinced I would still be doing math word problems as the sun rose…on my 20th birthday.
I didn’t have as much time to panic over homework in high school. I was always involved with a bunch of activities, mainly ballet, that kept me busy. By the time I got home and had some dinner, I only had a couple of hours before I needed to be asleep. So even though I hated it, I just had to get it done. One night I remember eating my dinner on the way to a rehearsal, while writing a paper, relying on the light in the car. If I had taken time for a freak out, I would have missed rehearsal, and I wouldn’t have finished the paper.
The problem became procrastination, a good friend I met in college. More free time meant more time to waste. If I had 2 days to complete a paper, something else of critical importance would take priority on the first day – something like cleaning my roommate’s hair out of the vacuum or sitting in a room with a few friends discussing how much work we had to do. On the second day, I would get everything else out of the way at the beginning of the day – checking mail, having breakfast and lunch, maybe a class or rehearsal. Nothing would be finished between any of those things. So I wouldn’t start until they were all completed. And that usually left me at 9 or 10pm, beginning a paper that was due the following day. I had it worked out to a science though. Mountain Dew, commiserating friends, and knowledge that it had been done before got me through it every time. I lost a lot of sleep. And I had a reasonable number of freak outs. And none of it helped improve my relationship with homework.
Law school was just about the same, defined by procrastination and complaining. But that complaining was warranted.
And now, here I am about a decade later, still biting my nails, wasting time, and freaking out about homework.
I handed in my first real paper last week. Although I left myself plenty of time to write the paper, it took me far longer than I expected to finish. At one point I had to trash my argument because it was centered around an article that turned out to be absolutely nutso (took me three reads to realize the guy was talking about magic more literally than is acceptable in an academic environment). Researching, re-reading, and trying to make sense of it all just went on and on. I expected to finish with plenty of time to spare. But around midnight, the night before it was due (it was to be emailed by midnight the following night), I was making fried rice and tea, knowing I would be up for several more hours. And then, of course, old habits came back to haunt me. No tears were shed. But self-doubt made an appearance. And then there was that woman I haven’t been in touch with for 4 years on facebook – I needed to look at all 121 of her Grand Canyon vacation photos. And then there was my phone’s ringtone – that had to be changed. And then of course there was the discovery of Top Chef All Stars on youtube. My goodness. There was just so much to do in such a short period of time.
But there’s a happy ending. I finished the paper, emailed it, and handed in the hard copy before 6pm the following day (perhaps my earliest ever). And I think it made sense. If it didn’t make sense, well it’s not so much a happy ending. But it certainly felt happy to get over that hurdle. And having spent so much time on the paper, I understood more of the concepts than I had before I began.
So finally feeling a bit smarter and more confident, I think homework and I may have reached a better place…but that’s not to say I won’t be looking at every single photo you’ve posted on facebook the night before my next paper is due.