Stumbling Along

As I said in the blog post, “Who Can Help With This Burnout,” I either know what I’m doing or I can stumble along. I started this semester with a mix of the two; moving clumsily through the things I didn’t understand, in a means to understand them, and just going about, doing the things I know how to do. The upside to this is that I can see some personal growth as I learned and kept going. The downside is that it took a lot more work than I was expecting and I didn’t plan for the eventual exhaustion that stemmed from that. The lack of planning led me to the fear of failing because I felt too tired and confused to keep going.

The biggest chunk of assignments for this class were the blog posts. As a freshman who had only ever written essays with a concrete prompt, choosing and crafting my own short prompts were confusing to me. To learn how to do this, and to avoid the procrastination that could easily develop from the fear I had, I took Dr. McCoy’s advice on how to construct a blog post and decided to just… do it. Write one and see where it goes, see how well it’s received, and then go from there. What was produced from this mindset was the post, “‘You Are Here’-What Does This Mean?

This post posed as the beginning of the learning curve for me. I made an average post with a prediction about N.K. Jemisin’s characters that Dr. McCoy had said “demonstrate[d] a clear, conversational style that makes [my] writing enjoyable to read.” I had some concrete constructive criticism to work off of and tried to do better the next time around. This led to the blog posts “From Four Rings to Six,” and “Canning Food and Botulism.”
Because the blog posts had a floating deadline and everything else due in my life had a solid due date, I kept putting off the writing of my blog posts because there was something more urgent to take care of. All of a sudden it was Thanksgiving break and this outlook had me with only three blog posts done. If I could go back in time and do this semester over again, with the knowledge that I’ve acquired, I would have planned out a schedule and followed it to get some more blog posts out of the way. This would have given me wiggle room, instead of having to pull myself out of an exhaustion and write 7 blog posts in a week.

The last week before the blog posts were due was the week with my best work –and the most work. Although I was insanely stressed and tired, I pulled myself out of the slump and got to writing. When I look at the grades that I got on my last few blog posts, I see an improvement. Grades don’t mean everything, but they are definitely a measured source that shows what happened. In this class we talk about the process of “thinkING.” Dr. McCoy writes it this way because thinking is something we often think of as passive, but by putting the emphasis on the gerund she makes it clear that thinkING is an active process. Using grades to measure my progress is useful, but they put constrictions on my reflection. I got more comfortable with the conversational writing style, freedom with the topic in which I could write, and the best way to do these things. Looking back, I see myself getting more and more confident when I press the submit button. Additionally, I see the posts — just — get better. They were easier to write. It became faster to figure out what I wanted to write about. I was always told by my high school classmates that the last minute pressure makes them produce better work. I never believed that for myself, but now I’m wondering how well I would have performed if I had spaced these posts out further. I always felt that the nerves from multitudes of pressure stunted the growth of my learning.

In spite of this, the pressure from having the freedom of a floating deadline gave me a fear of failure. Upon first glance, one might think that a freedom like this would make someone feel excited and more secure, but for me, I felt scared toward the unknown. If I didn’t plan things right, I could end up left without any ideas at the last minute and no time to find something new. If I created a plan, something happened last minute, and I couldn’t find time to make up for the time I lost, what could I do? What would happen if I failed?
In my mind, failure is the worst possible outcome. This can be a bad outlook because sometimes you need to fail in order to succeed. When I failed my driver’s test, I beat myself up for weeks. Failure is embarrassing, especially if it’s public. The blog posts I had to write would be, and are, public. If they were terrible, everyone would be able to see. Thankfully, I figured out early that the only way to succeed in this particular instance was to do and then learn from my mistakes. I’m also thankful that the process of this class allows me to fail before succeeding.

Overall, my time spent in this class has taught me that in order to learn sometimes, you have to go for something and learn from your mistakes later on. I was scared of failing. Because of this, I planned my time badly, leading to an increase in my fears. But, I can use what I have learned in this course to do better later in life. If, in a different class, I am given an assignment that I don’t understand, I now know that I should try to do it with the directions given and learn from the mistakes I make to create a better assignment. I also need to understand that sometimes in life, you fail, and you can grow from that. If, in the future, I receive another floating deadline, I will know to plan extra time into my schedule for surprises and things that cannot be planned for. This learning curve also helped me be more attentive in my everyday life. I would read something, hear something, experience something, and, a lot of times, I’d find a way to relate it to this class. No matter how deeply I had to dig, I felt myself making connections to things I never would have before. I have learned a lot from N. K. Jemisin’s work, but most importantly, Dr. McCoy’s teaching.

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