May 01, 2023

The Last Day of School

Today was the last day of school.

Remember back in January, when I was counting down the days until it started? Well, I've spent the last few weeks counting down the days until was over. And now, except for a final I have on Thursday (on my birthday of all days, go figure), I'm done.

I'm ready to get my life back. I'm burned out. I don't think I'll ever take a full load again. I actually talked to my advisor about this, and she was not really surprised, so maybe I did try to take on a little too much.

First, I had no idea what I was getting myself into with precalculus.

UGA has one of the most intense, difficult precalculus programs in the country. I've read that on multiple occasions. I had to have the class for my degree, but I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I signed up. Looking back, I should have taken it on its own, not with three other courses. I also had no idea that I would actually have to attend class three days a week. I thought it was all independent work. Having a class smack dab in the middle of the day three days a week puts a damper on my schedule… or lack thereof.

Second, I'm not a math person. Ironically, I made a perfect score on the math portion of the Georgia High School Graduation Test back in the day, and I've done pretty well in algebra, but beyond that, I'm a lost cause. I'm too lazy, impatient, and self-involved for any of it. I just don't care enough to try. And now, my brain is either too old, too bored, or too anxiety-filled (maybe all three) to memorize the identities of trig functions and rules of exponents and all those geometry formulas.

That got even worse during the two or so weeks I had COVID. My attention level waned, and I fell far behind pretty quickly, and I never really caught back up.

Thank God for YouTube. There are a few channels over there that do nothing but teach math, and they're the only way I managed to even get through this class. I highly recommend Brian McLogan and the Organic Chemistry Tutor if you need them. I got to the point where my professor's lectures didn't make sense, so I quit paying attention to them and just went to YouTube to learn how to do certain types or problems.

Admittedly, I've only done well on one of the three big tests we've had, and I don't expect to do well on the final later this week. My hope is that I just pass the class so that if I continue this little journey towards that degree, I don't have to take it again.

As for my other classes, well… one was not great. The professor didn't really know what she was doing. I don't want to go into details, but there was a language barrier and some other issues. Add to it that the subject matter was far less appealing than it seemed initially, and I honestly felt like I was just phoning it in for that class.

My third class was actually a science course on a topic I really like, but it didn't focus on the aspects of the topic that I'm most interested in (basically, there was more physical science than biology), plus every week, at least 50% of the class would go on some tirade about climate change. Like one week, I proposed an idea that could actually help end world hunger in a fairly short amount of time, and I got berated because I didn't consider climate change when coming up with the idea. I don't know, I figure people would rather have access to food before they start thinking about all of that. It seemed a bit elitist. I got to the point where I just wanted to power through that class too.

My last class was actually my favorite. I hit it off with the professor early on, and all of our assignments involved a lot of reading and writing, which is right up my alley. But even that lost its luster. First, I didn't get to finish a project we had (that I'd actually been looking forward to) because of the whole COVID thing, and for some reason, I could never bring myself to ask the professor for an extension. There was another incident that soured me, and while I continued to work hard in that class, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

If I had to go back and do it all again, my initial reaction is to say no. It almost causes me to panic to even think about it. But I don't regret any of it because I think I learned more about myself and life over the last four months than I have in quite a while.

I also learned more during my spring break in Costa Rica than I did in any of my classes, but it was the juxtaposition of the trip with school that really taught me something. I'm still trying to get out of the mode where I have to pack every single thing I want to do in my life into a short period of time. I think a lot of that comes from having to take care of my mom for so long and giving up so much of my time. I learned how to juggle during that period of my life, but I'm tired of juggling. Yes, there are still many things I want to do, but I don't actually have to do them all at the same time, and there is really no deadline on 90% of them.

I just want to simplify things a little bit. There is so much that I've been holding onto that was part of my old life — my life with my mom — that I'm ready to let go of now. Going to Costa Rica and doing things way outside of my comfort zone taught me that. While my interests haven't necessarily changed, my mindset has. When I try to do too much at once, I get distracted from my real goals. Somehow, in the eight short days I was in Costa Rica, I figured this out, and I came home with three very basic specific goals that I was ready to conquer. School wasn't one of them, so it felt like a burden after that — yet another reason to slow down and take a class or two at a time. I have a decent job. I don't need that degree for my professional goals. If I get it when I'm 45 or 65 or 85 or never at all, it's not going to change anything. UGA will always be a special place to me and an important part of my life regardless, and I'll always have some good memories from my first time there and this time too.

And the final issue that played into my burnout is that I barely worked for the first couple of months of this semester. That made it a little easier to spend seven hours on math homework. Once I returned from Costa Rica, a project started up that I just didn't want to ignore. So, I became a little resentful that all the school work was taking away from my bottom line. Anyway, I'm supposed to take a class this summer, but I haven't decided if I will or not. It's actually one of the classes I was really looking forward to, so I may stick it out. And after that, who knows? My real plan for the next few months is to focus on those three basic goals that I came up with in March, now that I have my time back. Oh, and I'm also learning Spanish.

Because later in the summer, I'm going back to Costa Rica with a different mindset. I fell in love with that country and the people there and the way of living. All my life, I feel like I've been searching for a place to belong, and every city I've tried hasn't quite lived up to what I was looking for. Charleston, Savannah, and the whole Lowcountry area are the only places that come close. So, I want to go back and make sure I'm not making it all up. And after that, who knows? It's time to start taking one day at a time rather than trying to plan everything all at once.

What I do know is that today is the last day of school, and while it really wasn't as bad as I'm probably making it out to be, I'm excited to move on. I'm worn out. My professors and fellow students are too. We've even talked about it in class. There's a reason students get summers off.

And I can't say I didn't learn anything at all this semester. For example, I'm not so great at most of the precalculus, no, but I can compound interest with the best of them. I'd like to think the class that I enjoyed helped improve my writing a little bit. And I learned that no matter what the subject matter is, college students in 2023 can equate anything, ANYTHING, with either climate change or Taylor Swift.