The Saga of How I’m Taking the Summer Off (Part Three)

Reason Three: Because I’m Bloody Perfectionistic and Need to Re-Prioritize

I’ve always been a bit perfectionistic, as you might’ve already gathered. Teachers have commented on it since elementary school. I got good grades, but always took longer than the other students completing exams and assignments because I was so picky about it.

So most people think the reason I’m so obsessive over school and my grades is because I’m a perfectionist. Well, as you now know, that perfectionism was only a part of it and my financial situation was a key player in why I was in school and ultimately, since it was demanding I take a certain number of classes and get certain grades, amplified my perfectionism further.

Today, I really want to look at the perfectionism and here’s what I think it comes down to.

Comparison Demons

My siblings are all six or more years older than me and they’ve got all their ducks in a row.

My sister’s got her BSc (because no one wants to say they’re going to school for their BS) and is a nurse who loves her job. Her husband is finishing his Master’s and is applying to the top universities in the world for his PhD, even though he’s in chronic pain, not to mention is eligible for crazy scholarships that very few people worldwide are eligible for and keeps getting invited to these scholarly expeditions.

My oldest brother is finishing his Master’s and not only teaches high school full-time, but also teaches university on the side as well as raising three children and will occasionally do some carpentry as a side business.

And now some of my friends are graduating with their BAs this spring. And they’ve already finished their practicums! And they’re younger than me! And they started school later than me!

This is a big blow to my ego. I am just as smart as them, if not smarter, so why can’t I get to where they are?

But I Want a Career Now!

Another thing that gets me is I can’t become a professor until I’m a practicing psychologist. And I can’t become a practicing psychologist until I have a PhD. And in psychology, a BA is pretty much useless and the only reason you get one is to go to grad school. Which means I can’t really start on my career until I’ve got myself these degrees, which is very different from most of my friends, who all want to be elementary or high school teachers so all they need is a Bachelor’s in teaching and to do a practicum and they’re set. A Master’s or PhD is not mandatory for their jobs like it is for mine.

The Utmost, Ultimate Importance of Following The Plan

In my high school, we had this class called Planning. It was supposed to teach you about life beyond high school, but honestly, it taught me nothing that I needed to know. Planning class, as suggested by the name, emphasized the importance of having and following The Plan. We were taught long-term, mid-term, and short-terms goals and How Important It Was to have all of those.

And this didn’t just happen in Planning class. We also had this kind of stuff printed on, like, every page of the free agendas handed out to us since middle school and we were required to fill those out.

The importance of “not being a quitter” was imprinted on us.

For my grad year in high school, we had to put together a portfolio about stuff like getting healthy, getting a job, getting an education and stuff (again, it was really useless because it only taught us how to set these goals, not how to actually achieve them). Part of that included a five-year plan for our lives. Most of my classmates just made it up, but apparently I have too much integrity and so freaked out in front of my mom, saying “How am I supposed to know what the next five years are going to look like?! I don’t even know how I’m going to make it through this hellish year!”

“You’ll get your BA in Four Years”

Anyway, after graduating, I actually did come up with a plan. I’d turned eighteen halfway through my grad year and decided that I was going to have my Bachelor’s Degree by age twenty-two. After all, the BA is a four-year degree, right? That’s what everyone says.

Then, say, another four years for my Master’s and another four for my PhD and voila! I’d be a doctor by the time I was thirty. Better yet, if I did school through the summer, maybe I could get my BA in three years.

Obviously, that’s not what happened.

After completing my first semester in university, I started semester two because my mom pushed me to (because of the financial situation), but on my first day of class I felt so sick that I spent the first half the class in the bathroom and the second half in the university’s first aid room (this was because of extreme anxiety from a classmate who was stalking me and who filed a complaint against me for, I dunno, maybe looking at him funny? Or not looking at him at all?).

I then withdrew from classes, filled out some medical forms with my psychologist, and submitted them, figuring it wasn’t worth it and telling my mom we’d figure something out, and then moved from my hometown and spent the next year in a depressed stupor.

Upon returning to school, I’d really felt like I’d fallen behind. Which made me want to go to school through the summer to “make up lost time”, so I could get my BA in four years.

It was incredibly naive. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the only way to finish your degree (assuming this is a 120 credit degree) in four years is if you take two fifteen credit semesters per year and take the summer off or by taking ten credit semesters year round. Let’s do the math for this:

Apparently studies have suggested that in order to get good grades, one must spend three hours on the material for each hour spent in class. So, a three-credit course means you spend three hours a week in lecture, meaning you spend another nine hours reading and studying for the class. So, for a 3-credit course, I spend twelve hours a week on that course.

So, for nine credits, I spend thirty-six hours on school per week, practically a full-time job. Which is why nine credits is considered full-time around here. Meaning that if I take on a part-time job, the amount of time I am working is brought into overtime. Except I’m not getting paid for most of this work.

And that means for fifteen credits, you’d be spending sixty hours on school per week. That is, if you’re wanting good grades.

Obviously, when you’re spending that kind of time on school, you don’t have time for things like working a job, so you won’t have money for things like rent, and you won’t have time for things like grocery shopping or cooking, so you’ll have to be living with someone who takes care of your needs for you, which is a privilege not everyone has.

Either that, or you take out a huge amount in student loans that you’ll have to pay back after graduation.

Basically, to finish your degree in four years, you’d likely have to be living with parents or a spouse (with them taking care of things like rent and groceries) and be unemployed to focus on getting good grades in school. Either that, or you’re some kind of superhuman.

And when you’re poor, you need to either work part- or full-time while going to school, which requires you to take a lower course load, and when you have a disability, everything takes forever and life is pretty much one inconvenience after another, also requiring a lower course load.

So if you’re poor and have to work a job, or if you’re disabled, getting your BA in four years ceases to be a real option. Yet I still held myself to this standard because I wanted to buck the statistics and be the exception to the rule. (There’s this one statistic that says full-time students who work part-time get lower grades than full-time students that don’t work outside of school. I wanted to be the one┬ástudent who could do both work and school and get awesome grades.)

I Must Get Straight As Because I’m Smart, Dammit!

And I wanted straight As so bad because, hey, all my friends have mostly As and I’m just as smart as them, so why aren’t I getting them?

It’s just that people generally think I’m so smart when they’re talking to me that I feel like if they knew what I was getting in school, that I got Bs and occasionally Cs, it’d be a let-down. But I guess that is better than the reverse: getting straight As and people look at that and think ‘Wow, she must be really smart’ and then they talk to me and think ‘How did she get those grades? She’s an idiot.’

And also, I’ve had so many people tell me that one day I will do great things. But I’m not doing great things. I do good, but I’m just an anonymous nobody who is constantly silenced and inhibited by fear. I am, at present, not doing “great things”. So, I feel like a let-down.

Stay tuned for Part Four, which will be much more positive, I promise.