Winter Quarter and What I’ve Learned

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Well, my second quarter at the big kid’s college is complete. So far as I know, I did quite well in all of my classes. I figured I would take a minute to consider what I’ve learned this quarter, which seems both generally in the spirit of what I like to do in my life, as well as in the general spirit of my school.

I go to a school that doesn’t grade with a letter grade system, instead we have a pass/fail system combined with narrative self-evaluations and evaluations from the teachers. I was nervous about that system when I arrived. I found I had grown very attached to my grades in a relatively short period of time at my little community college, and I wasn’t sure how I would adapt to this new system. After all, how could I know what to measure myself up against? I have found I am extremely good at finding something to measure myself up against. It is not even, as I originally thought, that I need to be the best at everything. I always assume I am not the best. But I seem to always be seeking some kind of elusive validation that I am measuring up. The validation can’t happen if I don’t have something to measure myself against.

I’m not really positive how I feel about that. I know it can be annoying. I am often seemingly on the verge of being paralyzed by imposter syndrome, by the curious belief that this will be the moment where the people I respect will realize that I am not actually as smart or competent as they think I am, that this whole strange charade will come crashing down. It is hard for me to put my finger on what exactly it is about my life that I think is a charade. I don’t know what I think I haven’t worked for or what I think isn’t genuine, but I worry about it all the same. I am well aware it can be frustrating to be on my cheerleading team and have to hear over and over again that I am panicking about a paper or assignment, even though nothing bad has ever happened before. That makes me all the more grateful for those people.

This quarter I thought a lot about how I was measuring myself. Some of those things included how I did on art projects (more on that later), by how on top of my homework I was, by how many friends I made, by the feedback I got on my papers, by my frustration levels, and by how well I felt like I balanced my life. It’s a complicated process. But some wonderful things happened this quarter, things I am proud of myself for, things I learned from. I just want to mention some of them.

1. Friends! Because I am all about relationships. People, people, people. And I DID make friends this quarter. And even reconnected with some. It’s been an interesting balancing act, because I definitely feel like school keeps me so busy, it is hard to find time for all the people things I would love to do. But also I find that it has changed the nature of my relationships in ways I really appreciate. I am able to have more flexibility with relationships out of necessity. We see each other when we can and enjoy whatever time we have. A lot more of my time has started being dedicated to Facebook chatting between homework and films to touch base. I feel like this is definitely the first time since I’ve been in school that I actually feel like I’m starting to make friends, have people I want to spend time with beyond what I already had. It does not suck. It reminds me of how much I love new people and how much fun that new click feeling is, no matter what kind of relationship it relates to.

2. Cool shit from teachers. Because I am also all about validation. This one is a little harder to break down into a single piece. I will say that my adviser from school sent me back feedback on my writing portfolio at the end of the quarter and told me that my writing was “above my cohort and I was ready to move onto the next level.” I may have done a dance. Okay, I may have done several dances. My absolute favorite teacher who really is one of the most amazing people I have ever met sent my first paper of her class back to me with only the note that it was a really excellent paper and she couldn’t think of anything to recommend as far as changes. That may have sent me into squealing. I know there have been other things but those have definitely been two of the highlights of my quarter and made me feel competent and excited.

3. Fitbit nonsense. I got my Fitbit curious to see how it would change my outlook on things. I was just copying over my journal entries last night and I feel like I could definitely see a positive uptick in my mood and general outlook on things when I was doing my 10,000 steps every day. I cannot say with any degree of certainty whether that was because of the exercise itself or whether it was because I was so proud of myself for feeling like I had everything under control or if it was a combination of those things. But regardless. I fell off a week or two before finals and I felt really bad about it. I am trying to get back on the wagon here over Spring break. If I can make it a must have habit, like my writing every day is, I do suspect my life will be more awesome somehow.

4. Art class things. I joined my art class to push myself in a different direction and I definitely feel like I struggled with it over the quarter. In many ways I struggled with it precisely because I was forced to acknowledge repeatedly how much less good I was at art than most of the other people in my class, just on like a practical level. That said, I am still proud of myself for taking the class and for pushing myself to continue to do physical pieces instead of just writing things (which we totally were allowed to do). I really do think it was good for me, and I think it is possible I could find a medium I was more comfortable in if I continued being willing to push myself into uncomfortable places like that. I feel like it was a good thing.

5. Movies! Because what list from me is ever complete without movies? No, really. I really did start out this year feeling extremely disappointed at how poorly I felt that I had done with films in 2014. Not only had I not watched nearly as many as I’d hoped but I hadn’t written about them at all, and a lot of what I watched were bad movies rather than good movies. Don’t get me wrong, I love bad movies but I think it’s important to have a lot of balance. So far this year, I’ve made a really concerted effort to include more movies in my life, even with school and other distractions. It involves lists and a lot of nerdy things I won’t bother with here. I am also keeping a running log of all my watching, and I believe I will start doing one movie review per month on this blog to push myself in that direction. So. I am very pleased with that.

These are just a couple of things, really. It’s been a super good quarter. I feel like I have learned and grown in a number of ways. Some things came together in ways I really didn’t expect at all, like how taking a class on American Indian Novels, combined with a class on grammar and punctuation combined with doing recaps on really terrible Christian fiction made me interested in the mechanics of writing in ways that I really haven’t been before. Something about combining reading really excellent books with really terrible books and then looking at the technical side of all of those. Also I’ve had ideas for like three different Independent Study Plans, at least one or two of which I am REALLY hoping I get to do. School is awesome. Learning things is great. I am a fan.

But you know what else is great? Being on break. That is super, SUPER great.

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