It’s that time of year again. Yeah that’s right, all us kids are going back to school. I’m heading into my fourth year of undergrad at Carleton University. This is the year I do my honours thesis as well to complete my program requirements for Cognitive Science.
Around this time last year, I was a lot more distressed. Even after three years of university I still felt unprepared for the coming workload and all the preoccupations of university courses. Just thinking about it made me want to curl up in a hole somewhere and hide. I knew I could do the work, but the thought of actually doing it filled me with dismay.
Well it turns out the amount of work thrown at me (mostly through essays and barely comprehensible scientific papers) was almost as bad as I had imagined. I was averaging 3-4 small essays per week with larger ones thrown in every so often and I was sometimes reading through 80 pages. It felt like about twice the workload of the previous year. Now by no means is this extreme or even unusual for university students, but to me it was a damn lot of work.
I had been used to cooling off periods between assignments where I could reassemble my motivation before plunging into the next one. But with my arrangement of deadlines it was a near constant schedule of attend classes, read a bunch of papers, write up an assignment, day in day out. Weekends were spent guilting myself into reading far enough into next week so I maintained a decent sleep schedule. It sometimes worked.
But after the year was over, something interesting had happened. I had absolutely had it with writing papers and seriously reading anything… and I felt no dismay about the next year. That feeling has persisted up until the start of this term. It’s like I’ve determined that last year was the worst it could possibly get, and there’s nothing I couldn’t get through for this year. Throughout all the assignments, I had focused my worries (and sometimes hatred) on the problem at hand and I stopped thinking about future assignments. Or rather, I stopped generating distressing feelings when thinking about future assignments.
Added on to that, I had found an honours supervisor and a possible research topic by the end of last term, two very big mental monoliths that had loomed over me for most of the year.
This year I know the workload will be high; there’ll be the extra pressure of doing my honours thesis plus the normal level of assignments for fourth year courses. But the cognitive obstacles have grown smaller. Everything seems less significant, like the monsters in your closet that eventually dwindle in size and disappear. Famous last words maybe.