Monday, January 16, 2012

Wait, I Just Got Here!

I've already completed my first year at Shimer College. Can you believe it? Neither can I. Seems like just the other day I was frantically making phone calls to to then-Dean David Shiner while simultaneously e-mailing the registrar (some guy named Jim, anybody know him?) The truth of the matter is that while the past year of college has gone by quickly, that's not to say that it was all cake-walks and sidewalk chalk. I've made quite a few mistakes and learned a few useful lessons from the experience.

1. Don't sign up to be a part of everything, no matter how awesome it sounds or how cute the person at the table is

I can't stress this one enough. My first semester I signed up for just about anything that came my way. I wanted to do it all: GLAM (Gays, Lesbians, Allies, and More), 33rd Street Productions (Theatre), Feminists United, and many more. I had a crapton of e-mails coming from each of these organizations and no time to commit to any of them. It wasn't until last semester that I realized what I could realistically handle. I am now an employee for the Illinois Institute of Technology Residence and Greek Life department, as well as a tech assistant at Shimer, I'm a volunteer small group leader of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, and I'm a full-time student. The beautiful thing about it is that I am able to easily manage my work, my one student organization, and my class obligations; leaving my second job at Shimer as a bonus activity. I work as a tech assistant which has probably the most flexible hours. I get an e-mail from my boss saying what kind of project they need doing and I say whether or not I can make it. There's no pressure for me and it really helps them out when I am available. Speaking of time management...

2. Keep an accurate calendar of things you need to do each day

This took me my entire first year of missing appointments, forgetting to do assignments, and never taking up opportunities available to me because I was to afraid to commit the time in case it conflicted with something else. This semester I keep track of my daily things such as class, work, and social engagements; I track my entire week's worth of homework in order of day it is due, and I have alarms programmed into my phone to warn me in advance of a regularly scheduled appointment such as work. So far, this has really helped me keep on track of things. I've found that I have twice as much free time now that I keep track of my daily appointments and have more time for the best recreational activity ever (codeword: sleep).

3. A Reading Is A Reading Unless It's A Shimer Reading

So you waited until the last minute to do that Aristotle reading, huh? No problem, you've got 45 minutes to cram that Posterior Analytics into your brain and hope you'll be able to pull something out of your own Posterior in class discussion, right? Right... It's unrealistic to do every reading twice, but I can say that some of our authors are not big on clarity (or your name is Joe Sachs and you should quit translating) and with this lack of clarity comes the necessity to mull it over a few times. Sure, when you're a first year student, you may be able to get away with it most of the time because you're readings aren't terribly difficult; but those of you who were/are daring enough to take an elective might have gotten a feel for what the upper class students are taking. The longer you stay at Shimer, the less you will be able to cram in the last minute (or not do at all) and still get away with. This came to my attention as I was reading The Teacher, a dialogue by Augustine. It took me twice as long because Augustine has so many layers, he's like an onion wrapped in an orange peel.

4. Forget your significant other back home

I would ask why you even needed a romantic interest in high school, but who am I to judge? I had several and besides, it seems like at least half of incoming Shimer students aren't coming straight out of high school anyway. This is not a rock-steady rule, but I really would advise against trying to maintain a relationship you started back home. I've seen it work in only a few instances where the couples were exceptionally mature about their commitments to each other. For everyone else, give yourself some room to breathe. Give yourself time to discover who you are when you're not living under Mommy and/or Daddy's roof anymore. Give yourself time to examine the things you've always held true and decide for yourself whether you believe them to still be true. Once you've done these things, or at least made some progress in doing so, you might want to consider trying the dating thing again if that's what you feel like doing.

5. Don't kill your roommate

Every dorm-dwelling Shimerian who lives in the same building and floor as I do knows that I don't always get along with my roommate. We're pretty much four years apart and that has made things all the more interesting. People might call me crazy for this, but I really wanted all the problems that have happened between my roommate and I. I could have afforded to have a room all to myself, or I could have lived with an IIT student elsewhere on campus, but I chose to face whatever problems would arise by living on the Shimer dorm floor. I wanted to challenge myself to grow in my social development. Sharing living space is one thing when you have your own bedroom to retreat to, but what do you do in a studio apartment? You can't hide in the bathroom forever. I'll tell you what you don't do, you don't kill each other. You work things out, bring someone else in on the problem if that fails, and if all else fails- request a new roommate. I sincerely believe that both my roommate and me will be better people for our experience even if it takes us ten years to actualize the lessons learned.

6. Your bed is sacred

I know it may seem comfortable to do your homework, read a book, or waste time on the Internet while snuggled in bed; don't do it. Turns out that our brains are more associative than we'd like them to be. When you study, read, or browse the web while sitting/lying in bed then what you're doing is programming your brain to think of those activities whenever you climb into bed. This is really bad when those rare times when you hop into bed because you actually want to sleep, your brain will think it's time to browse the web or read a book. I'm guilty of doing this from time to time since I have Netflix and Facebook on my phone.

7. You do not deserve a social life when you pay $25,000+/year to study

It amazes me how many fellow students I hear whine and complain about how little time they have to socialize and "have a life". In case it wasn't clear when you stepped foot on the campus, where every step you take represents about $20 you dropped into the school's bank account, you are paying too much to lose focus on your academics. Yes, it sucks that you have to work so much of the time and there are so many fun activities going on around campus. Seriously though, if not for the fact that you will learn nothing by over-emphasizing your social life, you'll be wasting thousands of dollars to do what you had all of high school to do. If you didn't take advantage of the light loads you had in high school (even my college prep with classical education was light in comparison to college) then you missed out on your opportunity to have a social life. Sorry, but college is too expensive and your future too dependent on your success for you to gripe and moan about the lack of social life. And before I get too much more into this...

8. Manage your time wisely... Which means paying close attention to steps 1-7...

Folks, it boils down to time management. I do not mean to say that I'm the master guru of time management, but I am improving considerably since my time in high school or even my first year in college. I've narrowed down the list of commitments I have to three main objectives which I will prioritize for you now in order of which gets the highest priority: class (plus the homework), work, and IVCF. In between those three I have found time to sleep, Skype video chat with my sister in Florida, call my mom, write blogs, keep a personal journal, rock out to my cooking playlist while concocting something tasty in the kitchen, spend quality time with friends on a semi-regular basis, go to church, and build Lego sets. I'm not saying you'll be able to do all these things and more the minute you attempt time management. It's a skill and like many other things it has to be developed before you can acheive what you want with it 90% of the time.

There you have, people. All these lessons I have learned the hard way in one form or another. I don't mention them to put you down if you are a person does any or all of these things, but I am hoping you'll consider what I say. If you're a Shimerian reading this, know that the facilitators are a great source of knowledge and much of what I learned about fixing my time management issues was through conversations with my facilitators plus a healthy dose of long-forgotten common sense.

Peace that surpasses all understanding,

1 comment:

  1. This list is a win:
    "In between those three I have found time to sleep, Skype video chat with my sister in Florida, call my mom, write blogs, keep a personal journal, rock out to my cooking playlist while concocting something tasty in the kitchen, spend quality time with friends on a semi-regular basis, go to church, and build Lego sets."