The end of my senior year of high school did not cure me of my senioritis. Nor did the start of college. If anything, my years at U.Va. only exacerbated my predicament by constantly reminding me of my extraordinary averageness.
At one point during my first year, I realized my old habits just weren’t going to cut it anymore. I had never been taught how to study. I didn’t know the first thing about writing an academic paper. I was convinced it was humanly impossible to digest dozens of pages of reading material per night without running out of hours.
Ultimately, I was not equipped to take school seriously, and I suffered for it; I fell into a toxic cycle of underperforming, underachieving and wallowing in self-pity. And truth be told, I never learned from my mistakes until it was too late.
There’s a line from the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” where the main character narrates, “until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” Until I feared I would lose the opportunity to be a student, it’s obvious I never truly appreciated it.
There’s something magical about being in a University classroom you can’t really explain to grade-schoolers or those whose paths have strayed too far away from academia. I’ve found everyone in the room is fully present and the instructor proudly exudes unironic enthusiasm for the subject matter. Learning is not just mechanical but is engaging, pushing you past your imagined limits and flying you into unchartered territories of your mental landscape.
I grew up thinking education was just a necessary evil in carving your path to a contented life. But I now realize nothing makes me happier than belonging to a class, spending my days engrossed in the complexities of what I read about and discuss with my peers and professors. I don’t just learn things so I can pass a test or hand in an essay; I learn things which actually linger in my subconscious beyond finals week. I can apply my knowledge to real life, facilitating my holistic growth as a human being.
Only after this internal renaissance, cultivated by years of collegiate education, was I able to teach myself to be a good student. Previously impossible tasks like paying attention in lecture now come effortlessly to me. I know how to turn the dullest of subjects into something far less torturous to learn. Time management doesn’t seem like as much of a mystery.
It pains me to acknowledge it’ll all be over soon. If anything, I wish I could turn back time and use the knowledge I have now to create an entirely different college experience for myself.
Graduation symbolizes a dead end for me because I don’t want to ever stop learning. Attending graduate school is always an option, but I just don’t think it would be the same; the focus would be much narrower, and I wouldn’t be able to spontaneously jump across disciplines just for the sake of widening my scope of knowledge. Locking myself into a job seems like even more of a trap. Somehow I can’t see myself confined to the shackles of corporate America for the rest of my adult life — but then again, will I ever be able to see myself anywhere besides college?
No matter where my fate ends up pulling me, I know things will be different three months from now. But I want to convince myself it’s not the end of my journey. For now, I will continue to learn my heart out and hope some impact from my days at U.Va. permanently rubs off on me. Though it feels like nothing can beat the self-exploratory goldmine of a college education, the least I can do is resolve I will not let the monotony of the real world interfere with my continual desire to learn.