Bella Bennett hits the books

— Photo courtesy of Bella Bennett

After 18 is an ongoing series written by four graduates from the class of 2013. This week’s dispatch is the third from Bella Bennett, who attends Skidmore College. Bella studied in London during her first semester. She is now at Skidmore’s main campus, in Saratoga Springs, NY.

You’d think that after midterms and break, there would be a sweet little lull in work to allow for reclamation, but that is not the case at Skidmore, where I go to college. Once your return from spring break, you better have your game face on, cause it’s go time. Four days ago it was spring break, yet today I was unyieldingly pelted with torrents of hail every time I ventured outdoors. It feels like the final stretch of the semester, but the end is nowhere in sight, nor is the end of winter. The work is piling up close to the two feet of snow still on the ground, and the pressure is mounting. And yet, we have six more weeks before finals. Can we take a deep breath for a moment? Of course not!

I continually consider the contrast between the obvious notion that college is an incredible opportunity, and the mindset that I so often succumb to, and just did, that there is too much, too hard, work. It’s not like constant manual labor or anything. Unless you play a sport, you’re only being asked to apply your mind, and for the most part you’re studying topics of your own choosing. So why do I complain?

College is so unlike any other arrangement; the environment is controlled, yet must also encourage growth through “independence,”  which in my opinion, you cannot truly find in a dorm full of double and triple rooms, nor in a dining hall with four star restaurant quality food always at your disposal, and especially not in a place where faculty will essentially do everything in their power to ensure your happiness and well-being. So why should we complain? This is better than living in a hotel with all of your friends (and more expensive!).  I see the paradox. I am aware that I live a privileged lifestyle, and yet I cannot figure out how to properly set aside time and do my work without a high level or stress. In London, this problem was slightly less obvious to me, because we had a lot more free time to explore the city. I miss free time!

I don’t know what it is about procrastination, but I think it’s almost safe to say that we are the procrastination generation. It is so ingrained in myself and to my knowledge, all of my peers. Obviously I know nothing of what it is like to live in another generation, but I do know that I thrive on that last minute I’m-done-for-if-I-don’t-finish-this feeling, and regardless of how my peers relate to it, we’ve all experienced that feeling way too many times more than we’d like to admit.

I think more than anything what I need to take away from college is time management skills. That furtive way that free time simply disappears and manages to eat up should-be-work-time in the process, completely baffles me. Regardless, I can already see many changes within myself from my first half-semester on campus (I spent my first semester of college in London). I’ve learned so much in such a short time; from gazillions of depressing facts about the environment that kind of make me want to go extinct like all of the species around us are, to how to project Google’s financial future, and even how to drive on roads with multiple lanes and stop lights! Bonus!

This is such a unique period of time for me. Even time itself has many new meanings! I stress about homework due tomorrow for example, but neglect a larger project due next week. Focusing day by day means that suddenly, next week has become tomorrow, and stress then becomes overdosing on coffee and possibly reverting to meditation  in order to complete the assignment before the sun rises and my Lion King Theme-song alarm goes off.

Retrospect has gained a whole new meaning for me as well, as I promise myself repeatedly to, “never get into such a compromised position again.” While finishing an essay and sprinting to class with it, I tell myself that editing is for yearbooks and trashy magazines. But as I walk into class, that notion always deflates and I’m left with the uncomfortable feeling that my strategy is very flawed.

As they say, the first step is admittance. (Or something vaguely like that…) I hope that by shedding light on my academic flaws I will be able to overcome them in the near future and then truly take advantage of the glorious freedom that college offers through unending opportunities. I can smell many nights of coffee guzzling in my future, but I can also smell that sweet victory of one night (hopefully soon) having a warm mug of Sleepytime tea and getting to bed early after a productive day’s work. You have to start somewhere with goals, and mine is most certainly to put more effort into my opportunities (which consist of school work but the word opportunity has a better, more enlightening connotation) sooner. In the meantime, it’s spring snowstorms, unnecessary stress, maybe a few sprints, and a whole lot of assignments for me!