Some time this afternoon, a number of my professors will be gathering to discuss a thesis I have written. My academic life is not quite in their hands, but it feels like it; I’ve put a lot of time into it, neglecting other obligations (you, dear readers, for example). Of course, I’ve also neglected IT. It’s my first large-scale piece of writing, clocking in at nearly 40 pages (believable if you read my entries here often). As such, many factors come up that one doesn’t expect. There’s cohesion, for example: one has to make sure different ideas make sense in the context of the paper, and that each section leads to the next. One also needs to make sure there is no unnecessary repetition, which is difficult in the context of a long piece of writing. Deadlines, however, become a factor as well. Shorter work, well, you can start research later, cobble ideas together on a smaller time frame. Being used to this style of work, I found myself overwhelmed. Doubly so when confronted by the numerous conflicts that have occurred to fray my mental state this year. As I continued down the slippery slope of slackery, I kept thinking, over and over, “I’m not going to do finish.”
This sounds like a heavy handed set up for an obscure mid-90s rap-rock hybrid piece, and it is, which is why that’s not the point. Sure, I’m finding that Orange 9mm satisfies something that many of their peers do not still satisfy for me. Sure, I think this is a forgotten gem of its time… it’s catchy in ways that the so-called “nu metal” era rarely was, funky in ways the generic slap-bass of the time didn’t understand how to be. But it’s artifice. It is that fear of failure, instead, that is the focus, because it’s something I am indoctrinated into.
This is basically how things went as a younger man, trying college out the first time. I had been pretty successful in high school without needing to make much effort. In college, things got out of hand. It’s not that the work was harder: the responsibility was less. I could sleep when I was tired, and I could ignore work without anyone lording over me. I had no idea how to handle myself, and the grades show it. A professor once told me that the exam I slept through, were I to make it up, wouldn’t even matter to my grade. This is what my academic life looked like. In high school, there were distractions to the depression. In college, nothing really stood in its way. I was my own person, and my own person really wanted to fuck his life up, apparently. I can’t even claim the normal college lifestyle. I wasn’t up all hours partying, or getting into drink and drugs. I’d go home, order Chinese from Rainbow Noodle House, and pass out. It was a sad existence, but it was mine.
This trend followed me in the workforce, as well, leading me to the choice to try education again. As time has pressed on through this attempt at college, I’ve been scared as all get-out of repeating the process. This year, I have slept more than I have at any other point in my college career, except that first year, long ago. I’ve seen myself losing more and more motivation, getting more and more hung up on little things, forgetting more and more expectations. It’s frightening. At 31, I don’t have the luxury of a third chance, so every progressive semester, as I watched myself unravel, I feared more and more that I would repeat history. Even now, weeks away from finally graduating, the prospect of not completing this road is terrifying, all the more so because I feel it always threatening to occur.
I don’t want to be a failure again.
And yet, I’m also the closest I’ve ever been to when this song came out, when I was not remotely a failure. Sure, I was a bit of a slacker even then, but I was in a position where I was respected and successful, as much as any teen student is respected and successful. If the song has been experiencing a resurgence in my life, it comes from feeling that maybe, just maybe, I’ve broken the cycle. Maybe I’m learning the lessons I never had to before. “Hey, shit goes bad,” right? You can be a failure. Brush yourself off and try again.
I’ve been doing my fair share of brushing. Today, a group of professors will be judging a project I took on of my own volition. In some future tomorrow, if this pans out, they may be colleagues. We can’t dwell on our past bullshit. It’s only for us to fight it back when it rears its ugly head.
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