Had it dawned on me that taking two compressed courses at the same time would be the functional equivalent of taking three full-time courses for the months I’d be in school, I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to do it. But I did, and it was a mess.
It’s kind of difficult to describe how utterly exhausted I am, both mentally and physically. I knew two courses would be a lot of work, especially considering how busy the first few months of the year tend to be at my job, but I was still taken aback by what I got myself involved in. My accounting class in particular was extremely difficult for me, and many weeks I found myself putting in 25-30 hours a week in an effort to keep up. (My Operations class, which I generally found very interesting and happened to be very relevant to my job, definitely suffered as a result.) I tried to tough it out, though, figuring it was a learning experience, it would only be one semester, and I’d know better and stagger my classes in the future. It wasn’t until the last few weeks that it dawned on me that failure–and I mean “fail” quite literally here–was an actual possibility.
98% of my life over the past two months can be divided into one of three categories: Work, school, and, coming in at a distant third, sleep. I barely saw my son the past six weeks; if I was home while he was awake, I was probably studying, and as a result missed so, so much. I kind of feel like I abdicated my responsibilities as a parent, dumping way more than was fair on Lisa. My phone broke, and I basically had to ignore that as I didn’t have time to get it fixed. (It’s still broken.) My body is a case of deferred maintenance: Over the past two months I’ve canceled doctor and dentist appointments, and skipped an orthodontics adjustment and an eye exam, all in an effort to save an hour here or there. For all practical purpose, I haven’t exercised since early February.
And what did it get me? Practically nothing. Even if I do pass my Accounting course–and, again, that’s a very big “if”–I learned very little. My retention for these two courses has been remarkably small. Last semester, when I took only one course in an effort to ease my way back into academia, I had time between my courses and homework to actually think about what I was learning, and how I could apply it to my job, or what I could share with others. And you know what? That was great. I also had time to be with my family, spend the weekends with my wife and son, give appropriate attention to work, and, you know, relax now and then. Last semester, I was reading books that had nothing to do with my class or my job. On the weekends I’d spend my regular hours tearing through the New York Times, watching a movie with Lisa, or going with her and our son for a stroll around the mega mall. My class was adding to my life, not controlling it.
No such luck this semester. Again, I don’t know why I didn’t just drop a class. Maybe that would’ve seemed like giving up, or like failure, but in retrospect it would’ve been an incredibly reasonable thing to do.
Final exams were last week. I don’t feel particularly confident about my closing performance in either one of my classes, but there’s not really anything I can do about that now other than sit around and wait for my grades. Even if I do pass, I’ll likely be on academic probation. Academic probation! I feel like a bad joke.
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Early March was when things really started to go off the rails. My yearly pilgrimage to SXSW played a part: The second accounting midterm (the class had two) was scheduled for the day I’d be returning from Austin. Knowing I’d be wiped out upon my return, I asked to reschedule my exam, and ended up taking it the morning I’d be heading for Austin, five days before everyone else in the class. Tactically that would’ve made sense if I had control over my work life and wasn’t sick, but I had neither. I’m not going to delve into details about my job, but I will say the first quarter of 2008 was uniquely demanding in ways I haven’t seen at my place of employment in many years. And worse, I was on the trailing edges of the flu that first ran through our household in mid-February. I bombed the exam, in the process making a good grade in the final absolutely critical.
I don’t think I made it. In preparation for the accounting final, I went so far as to take off a couple half days at work when, really, I had no time to be taking half-days. Worse, I got sick with whatever new crappy thing was floating around the office, and as such ended up taking a total of two exams when I would’ve been better off in bed.
I don’t know why I didn’t drop my courses while I still had the option to do so. What was I thinking?
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I know I’m being extremely unfair to myself with this, but I just feel really dumb. I know a lot of people consider me a reasonably smart person, but I often don’t feel that way about myself–confidently, at least–and with this semester I kind of feel like I’ve finally unequivocally exposed myself for the fucking idiot that I am. Completely overboarding, I know–and, trust me, it’ll pass–but that’s how I feel right now.
I know how my brain works, so a bit of a prediction: If I fail accounting, I’ll take it as proof of my own stupidity. If I somehow manage to pass, I won’t give myself credit for it, and instead will chalk it up to luck.