When Michelle Pfeiffer voiced the role of Eris in ‘Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas’ she commented on how empowering it felt to embrace chaos. I love that thought and often chuckle over it when things get a little hectic. It always seems to happen. Things come up that demand attention, are time-consuming, and always seem to sideline other projects and interests for an inconvenient amount of time. This week, after intense immersion in a professional project, some winter ‘weather events’, time with three old friends, and a trip to the Geek Squad for a computer repair, I am sitting down to evaluate the damage to my study targets.
My study targets are sometimes moving ones and require some concentration and flexibility to sustain. As the week wore on more time was required for work, and a little more was wanted for the unexpected pleasure of old friends. I considered how to recover from an unplanned shift in priorities that required almost all of my attention for really 10 consecutive days. It occurred to me that, as my available time for study changed, I should be flexible enough to choose study techniques which keep both my productivity high and my goals in reach. In Ms. Pfeiffer’s words, embrace the chaos instead of fighting it.
For me, embracing the chaos means understanding what I can accomplish in the time available, and what study techniques will accommodate both my academic needs and my time. First, I thought the best use of limited time would be to focus on my greatest needs. I reviewed which areas of my current knowledge set would have the biggest negative impact at exam time, and then designed a study exercise to improve or compensate for the deficit. For example, my greatest weakness is reading proficiency in Literature of the Later Middle Ages. Our exam requires 2 close readings rather than 1, and only fifteen additional minutes to produce this fourth essay. I used some of my brief intervals of time to concentrate on reading and analyzing very short passages of texts competently. It increased my confidence with this exam requirement, and helped me realize that short passages are the best way to approach this task.
Evaluating my ability to provide competent responses to key issues of special interest in certain literary periods was also incredibly helpful. Training myself to look for these particular points in pieces of text of a manageable size is absolutely liberating. During my very hectic week I decided to analyze specific, short sections of Henry Fielding’s work. Comparing a few pages of several texts helped me develop arguments about 2 key issues of concern to the Augustans. It was a wonderful access point to a literary period I looked forward to studying, but found a bit difficult until this week.
For me these are real study accomplishments. The study success I enjoyed this week prompted me to establish a timeline that gives immediate focus to a sufficient number of texts and issues for exams, and allows me to return to them in greater focus again and again before May, when English and Comparative Literature exams are given. As it turns out, 10 incredibly busy days of deadlines and unexpected commitments was the very best thing that could have happened. After all, ‘embracing chaos’ means recognizing that it is something of a companion, and will no doubt visit again, like my other most welcome old friends.