I felt like a superhuman. I could be in multiple places at one time, engaged in various activities, and converse with more than one person at the same time. I felt that I was invincible.
Wouldn’t this make me the smartest person? Getting distinctions for my exams shouldn’t be difficult, right? Well, not quite. Recently, I noticed some significant changes in me. I had difficulty sustaining attention. When being spoken to, I often found my mind drifting away. You could be telling me about an unpleasant episode you had at work, with your neighbour or with your family, all in the hope that I, the listener, could empathise with you. Alas, I had a problem even remembering your antagonist’s name, much less the way he had caused you to be so upset.
This, without a doubt, was utterly disappointing. I wasn’t a superhuman after all.
It is no big secret what this “thing” is. I am quite sure that every one of you owns at least one, two, probably more.
Nobody said that it is going to be easy. Anyone who grows up in a traditional education system would have the idea of pedagogy that naturally conjures up the picture of a classroom of students and a teacher. Nobody said that to acquire a degree through self-studying, without guidance, is going to be smooth sailing. However, no one has said that it is an impossible task either.
I believe that most of us in the UOL long distance program shoulder the same responsibilities: work, family and studies. As if to juggle these is not challenging enough, some of us have also taken the degree course without any additional help: we study without attending any local teaching institutions. A daunting task it is, but, we must not forget the one big perk that is attached to it – flexibility.
Last month, I talked about the importance of taking a break; the benefits of my temporal relief of a knotty problem encountered in any aspects of life, including studying. No matter how pressing a matter might seem to be at a moment, it always does me immense good when I pry myself away, so that I can return to it rejuvenated and ready to tackle it afresh.
So, what is the next stage following the “chilling” method? How did I get myself warmed up to the tons of reading that have piled up since the day I signed up for the modules of the next academic year?
I call this next stage the “thawing” method. It is when I immerse my mind in a semi-ready mode, or when I do not want to be switched off completely, while preparing myself to return to serious studying.
After a long hiatus that consists of two exams, and a couple of momentous but manageable events, I am glad to be back to writing on this blog. I have come to realise that the occasional skid in life is inevitable. However, we should always remember to get up, dust ourselves off, and get going. This is what life is about, isn’t it?
It is pretty much the same when it comes to baking; a new hobby that I have recently taken to. I bake almost once or twice a week now, sometimes even thrice. The excitement of how the cakes, cookies and breads will turn out, is an experience I could never get tired of. As I am still a novice, there are times when the final products did not turn out as I had imagined. I once made some disastrous-looking cookies that are so crumbly and wouldn’t hold together. In fact, they looked so awful that I think even Odysseus would rather eat something from Circe’s kitchen than my cookies.
About two weeks ago, the results were released. Champagnes were popped, for those who were happy with what they achieved. Hairs were yanked from heads, for those who did not do well and wished they had put in more effort.
I am straddling the two. My feeling for my results, is something I still could not fathom at this moment. I would say that I did well enough to secure good passes, but not well enough to score distinctions. It gave a strange feeling that is worse than the lousy feeling I would feel, if I had failed the exams. I am aware that this daze, this inability to feel neither jubilant nor disappointed, could be potentially dangerous. Because gradually, from a state of daze I would soon be transformed into a languid mood. Needless to say, this would lead to my study plans for the new school term, being utterly jeopardised.
And now, we wait. The waiting game has never been easy. We all know that our fate is irrevocably sealed the minute the invigilator asked us to stop writing. And what follows is no longer in our control. There is nothing else to do except to wait.
As I stepped out of the exam hall, what I felt was an odd concoction of uncertainty and relief. I could possibly have been in a state of shock too for that split second. Is that it? I asked myself. After months of preparation, nights of burrowing deep into the books, it is finally over. The final verdict now rests on the innocuous looking little white booklets.
What if I tell you that you actually enjoy studying more than you realise? What if I tell you that scoring distinctions aren’t exactly the contributory factors to the fun of the course? All the hours you have spent boning up a text; compare this to that few minutes of bliss when you realise you score a distinction for your paper. What if I tell you that you actually enjoy the former much more than the latter?
The truth is, I have been putting off writing this blog post. In fact, it is not just this blog post that I have been putting off!
We are all quite familiar with the formula: write every day, as it is the only way to hone the craft. And, keeping a diary is the best method to do this. Quite convinced that regularity is truly the way, I too, have been keeping a diary for about six years, to persuade myself to write something every day. Recently, however, I had not written a word in it for nearly 20 days.
Eventually, I decided that it was time to finally extinguish that flame of December festivity, which I figured was where the heat of playfulness got a little out of control. I had allowed it to foil my plans for too long. But, when I decided to pick up my long neglected writing, as well as my studying, I was shackled by lethargy. I could not get into my stride. I could not read even for 15 minutes without feeling restless. I somehow managed to cook up an avalanche of excuses – I need to go to work, I need to cook, perhaps I should rest for awhile before I begin, etc. “Awhile” became “a day”. By bedtime, the panic mode would take over. I would try to redeem the hours lost in a day, all in that few hours before bedtime. It would never work out well: reading was done in a haphazard manner, without registering anything; writing was insipid, lacking in texture. I realised that I could not cheat myself any longer.
Who would actually be interested in knowing the mundane details of another person’s daily life? Well, I do. I do, especially if that person is remarkable, someone who has made astounding achievements in their lifetime. I do, especially if that person is a writer, a musician – someone whose creativity is celebrated, commemorated and revered for years, and many more years to come. I have always found it very fascinating to know how these people manage to find time to work on their creations. Just how did they do it?
It is for these reasons that I bought a copy of Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. It is a book that tells us everything about what great minds like Hemingway or Beethoven do daily. We have all heard about the geniuses of these people, and I have always wondered just how they achieved it.
He looked at me for a second, probably it was for three seconds. And just when I thought he was beginning to look at me a little longer than before, he turned his eyes away. He picked up his phone, his fingers did the swiping motion; right to left and top to down. It managed to hold his eyes with the intensity I had known so well. It was the kind of concentration I used to see years ago, whenever he had his eyes on me, listening to my every word with fascination.
Again, he looked up at me for a second; two seconds; his hand was still holding on to his Blackberry. Perhaps it was work, some important email that he had been waiting to receive, I thought. I tried to put my words across, but before long, I lost him again, “My true name is so well known in the records…” Beep. Beep. In an instant, he picked up his phone again. It seemed to possess a way of controlling his reflex. It dominated his every move. He sat up. OK, finally, it looked like he had decided to pay his attention to me. But all he did was to flip open his laptop and start surfing the net.
No, this is not the rumblings of a neglected lover. Neither is it of a child who is deprived of the parent’s attention. It is from one of the books that sit on your shelf; one that is lying on your coffee table, on your breakfast table; by your bedside; or (for those with the habit of reading while ‘expelling’), by the toilet. It is that book which you have always wanted to finish reading. You have had that book for almost two years, which is a long enough time to read all its 200 pages, the average length of any book.