Driving force

I was driving home to Bethwyn’s house a few nights ago after a day of work, and there came a junction where I could take the most efficient route to Bethwyn’s house to be with her as soon as possible, or I could branch off to the Causeway and take a slightly more scenic route, if a little longer. I decided within moments and came up with this saying: “Life is all about the pleasure of the drive.”

In other news, I got back my assignment from Advanced Practice on caring for a person with dementia. I got 33.5/35, or 95.7%. It blew my mind, I couldn’t believe how well I did when I barely knew what I was talking about and was stressing the crap out to submit it before 4pm. I think I submitted it at something like 3:58pm a day after it was due, but the tutors in social work are generally kind enough to overlook deadlines.

Generally in the past, I’ve fluctuated between brilliance and mundanity. In primary school I was somewhere in the top three to top five in my class in terms of marks- I’ve always had this rather peculiar short-term memory for things I’ve recently studied. Reading a fact’s sheet about volcanoes, or the female reproductive system for example, I was able to list almost everything on the sheet with very particular wording.

In high school I somewhat floundered a little, overwhelmed with stress from too many subjects and a rather unreasonable amount of commitments, including chorale, vocal ensemble, debating, music lessons, hockey/tennis lessons and tournaments, Taekwondo, meetings for Amnesty International as well as volunteering for too many charities. It really did feel like I was drowning in the paperwork sometimes, and I gave up on things I had previously been brilliant at: I just failed English Literature (49.5% in my TEE), my Applicable Mathematics was slowly dwindling down the drain, despite tuition (just over 50% I think), I long gave up on chemistry, which I had previously loved… But I excelled in Human Biology. I found a passion, and I devoted myself to doing well in it, to being the best student I could, going out of my way to do extra study and learn about the body in meticulous detail. I wasn’t the highest in the year, but I was up there.

In university, somehow I began to flourish again after a disheartening few years of high school. At first I figured that because a lot of the students weren’t fresh out of school and still retained their knowledge of study skills and essay writing it gave me an edge. Perhaps it was the low TER requirement to get into social work- generally speaking, perhaps social work students were less book-smart than, say, medicine students? Maybe these were a contributing factor, but I think it was just my ability to write that saved my ass, well and truly. I have a mild gift for articulation and expression, and a clever turn of phrase (like the title for this blog post, for example) or a compelling few sentences to make an introduction or conclusion has won over the hearts of markers time and time again. (My track record illustrates this well: of the 16 units I have completed, I have gotten 1 credit,  6 distinctions and 9 High Distinctions.) Of course there are certain tutors who have disagreed, but in almost every unit I’ve ever studied I’ve absolutely nailed the assessments even when I didn’t deserve to. Case in point with the most recent one.

So what is it about university that really gives me the chance to thrive? I’ve noticed that with my confidence, I’ve started being bolder, making more contested statements and raising some significant questions about the nature of the world and life itself. This confidence is contagious, and I’m very sure that being able to move the marker with my passionately and eloquently stated views is often enough to give me a high mark, even if it doesn’t make sense. I’ve found that if you say something profound enough to get someone else thinking about it, they’ll try to make sense of it even if there isn’t any sense to be made, and consequently conclude it must be very profound indeed. It’s this sort of well-written tripe that has gotten me so many high distinctions it’s ridiculous- yes the points I make are valid and worth stating, but many of them are also vapid, empty, just saying words for the sake of saying words. I rarely devote adequate time and attention to a topic that I learn it well enough to really make a worthwhile argument- not always, but many a time.

And this string of successes has gotten to my head. As I said, the confidence is making me bolder, stating controversial views and raising challenging questions. But it’s also driving me to do better each time- to keep up the excellent work, to make each assignment as impressive (or moreso!) than the last. 80% is my standard now- anything under is disappointing, but adequate. What the hell kind of attitude is that? Many people would contemplate murder to get the 75% I just got for Social Policy, but which made me feel a little down even though it was probably more than I deserved given I overlooked half the question. I realised that I’ve become so driven by my marks that I’ll do almost anything to achieve them- it’s not important for me to win, it’s just damn well important me for me to do the best I possibly can. And sometimes that means putting aside things that are more important- shouldering my colleagues out of the way in order to show that I know the most, or cancelling on Bethwyn because I’d rather try and catch up on study I should have done ages ago. It’s wrong. But I just don’t know how to stop. I mean, now is as good a time as ever. I have only one essay left for the semester, and with the marks I’ve gotten so far, I could just write my name on the paper 1000 times and hand it in with adequate referencing and still pass the unit. But I just can’t let go of the idea of getting that 80%. I’m sitting on an average of 79%, so all I need is to get 81 in this essay, a reasonable enough task if I nail it as I so often do, to tip the cap back into 80. But why do I care so much?!! Most employers don’t give a crap about your marks, they give a crap about how good your practice is. And my practice is excellent (though never perfect), so why am I so keen to get the marks more than to learn the content? I would value a HD more than doing every reading and attending every lecture. So, maybe as a test for myself, I should just bomb this last assessment.

But I can’t bear the thought of that P or C instead of a D or HD on my report card. I can’t let go of my dream of a semester full of HD’s. I’m not too sure how to break the cycle, especially since I’ve earned so much over the years. But I guess, like quitting RuneScape and deciding I don’t need to do the Wii Fitness test every day, that there will come a point when I realise it’s no longer important to me. I just hope I don’t let it ruin my friendships or anything else that matters to me in the process.

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