And that’s the end of Month 1.
I received the last of my results for the exams I just wrote. While I was relieved that I’d passed everything, I could not help but feel disappointed:
Which gives an average of 65%. Compared with the average of 58% of the exams of last semester (where I failed a course), it’s a definitive improvement. However, a big part of me still regrets not having done better. I was and am fully capable of achieving a final result in excess of 90% for each course; I should never settle for sub-standard outcomes.
Nevertheless, it’s important to keep an accurate perspective. Last semester, I was emotionally and mentally crippled. My first experience of crushing heartbreak occurred a few days before a major anatomy test and a month before the final exams. Fortunately, I scraped by on all but one of my examinations. I got lucky by failing a selective course whereby the conveners would rather have you write again during the break than fail you outright in an attempt to keep what little students they have in the course. This meant that there was effectively no disruption of the three-year program: I could proceed as normal. This set the stage for the second semester.
In July, before the start of the latter academic half of the year, I drew up excel spreadsheets and fastidiously gathered information to plan my assault on the work ahead. I was going to plan out each and every section and detail, getting everything done in time so that a week before each assessment I already knew the work better than the lecturer teaching it to me. Of course, reality proved otherwise.
Less than two weeks in, I broke down. I was sitting in my flat and found my old phone with nudes of my ex and videos of us having sex. The battery was swollen and barely working, but I got it started up with the charger. I knew that I shouldn’t be dwelling on the past, much less viewing veritable pornography of my ex, but I felt so defeated that I wanted to feel the comfort and solace of my old relationship in whatever abstract way I could. After looking through the images of her, of us, I called her.
That was the second time I’d called her after the break-up, and she was decidedly less friendly that time around. I read somewhere that women are only cruel when they become aggravated and annoyed by a man’s lack of a spine. I was a sniveling, groveling wreck on the phone, pouring out my heart, telling her that the pain wasn’t going away no matter how many girls I was hooking up with. And so, for the first time ever, I heard anger in her voice. She said she didn’t want to talk to me, that she didn’t need to talk to me, and that she was way too stressed with schoolwork and medical school applications to deal with me too.
The next day, around noon, I sat in a cubicle in the study center, lacerating the inside of my forearm with the blunt end of ruler. The haunting reminders of my ex, the loneliness on campus and the work that never seemed to get done proved to be an overwhelming combination. The plans I had made to achieve academically had fallen apart, since I had nowhere near the amount of mental focus, discipline and endurance required to undertake a study routine that would yield a 90%+ result. I sat there, contemplating one suicidal thought after another, completely disillusioned and sitting at rock-bottom. A friend of mine that I’d had a fling with called me and talked me through it, managing to get me back on my feet.
And so I pressed on.
The rest of the semester had its highs and lows. I learned a great deal about the nature of work, the importance of doing things instead of sitting on my ass thinking about them. I was shown what waited for me if I didn’t pull my shit together: a life of mediocrity and regret, the pain of inevitable grief and disappointment temporarily offset by repeated procrastination. On the other hand, on those days when I aced a test or completed a full days work, I felt untouchable. Though I felt constantly assaulted from every angle, getting things right made it all go away. The strongest shield is the heaviest to raise.
However, genuine change takes place gradually over time, not all at once. While I botched the preparation for two of the four courses I took this semester, I prepared well for one (physiology) and okay for another (anatomy). Though I wish I’d done better, this still constitutes an upward trajectory. If I stay the course, then the coming months and my third and final year at this university will herald my transition from a compulsive, troubled intellectual to an optimally functioning, driven academic.
The next two months, for the time being, pose a new challenge. I need to get my foot in the door at the university where I wish to apply for the Honors program, and it’s going to take a mountain of work to get there. This involves proofreading approximately 120 late-19th century academic texts in neurology and psychoanalysis, as well as assisting with the processing of neuroimaging. In addition to that, I have the anatomy rewrite sometime in January.
And, on top of all of the academics, I need to get my gym routine and guitar practice started as well.
On the plus side, I have more freedom surrounding how I spend my days since there are no classes or other compulsory events. I also have the experience of the last few months behind me, which have given me insight about the how and why of sedulous academic industry.
I should have some interesting news next week.