[Originally published in the Long Beach Union (student paper at Long Beach State), in my bi-weekly column called...]
Another Useless Column
Ah, the first week of the semester, when no matter how much you procrastinate, you can’t be more than a week behind in your classwork. This is going to be it: this is the semester you make it to class every day, take good notes, read the assignment before it’s due, and are prepared enough to get a good night’s sleep before the exam. Yes, this semester will be different.
Here’s a little suggestion for you: expect to fall back into your abysmal habits, expect to fall behind in your studies, expect to be willing to sell your soul the week before finals.
This may seem pessimistic, but it’s in the best interests of you self-esteem. Really.
Rather than going into this semester with high hopes of academic success—which, let’s face it, history dictates most of us don’t quite live up to—set your sights lower. Instead, think: This semester I’m going to sleep through my morning classes, hang out with my friends instead of attending my afternoon classes, blow off studying in the evening to watch television, and I’ll fail miserably.
One of two things will happen: either you’ll actually get off you duff and do something and manage to pass all your classes, or the above pattern will prove to be your fate. If the former is the case, then imagine your delight when you have so amazingly exceeded your expectations that you will actually feel good about yourself for a while. If the latter comes to pass, well, you can take heart in knowing that you can set a goal and stick to it. You really can’t be disappointed either way.
Of course, you should be warned that if you happen to pass, it will be more difficult to return to your underachieving ways next semester, and you may be tempted to have aspirations again.
Remember, kids, the more classes you pass, the sooner you’ll graduate, and then you’ll have to do something with your life. But on the off-chance that you do eventually get a degree, do not fall prey to the sort of thinking that these collegiate years will make some difference in the rest of your life. Again, they may or may not, and if they do, hey, great. However, if college proves to have left you unprepared for the future, at least you didn’t expect any differently, and all those student loans you have to repay will not be a constant reminder of unrealized potential but just another pleasant debt you incurred along the road of life.
And then one day, as the sun sets on your life and you reflect back on it, you can think: Well, I did lead a life of quiet desperation, but that’s all I ever thought it would be. Thus, you can die a reasonably ambivalent person.
It’s all a matter of setting realistic goals, and expecting much less.