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June 25, 2005

The last night of term at Warwick…

…is eerily quiet.

Most of my kitchen-mates already left either earlier today or earlier in the week, and now it's raining. Rarely has it been so quiet in Rootes.

This is mildly dissapointing, considering the revlry that greeted the end of the previous two terms, but it certainly gives room for quiet reflection.

What has my first year at Warwick brought me?

A distinctly mediocre set of marks for my first year – I'm getting a 2:2 at the moment. THis is entirely my fault, related to my failure to submit some of my assessed work for important lab modules, as wellas one or two dodgy exam perfomances.

Relatedly, it's brought me my first real feeling of struggle and failure in my academic career thus far (PE excepted). My record thus far in actual exmainations has been nigh-spotless: 10 A* and an A at GCSE, Four As at A level (and a B at AS-level). This is the first time I've noticeably screwed up badly at something that matters, in terms of my actual qualification.

Granted, this year only counts for 10& of my overall degree, and so it's probably not going to decide my final classificatin one way or the other. But nevertheless, they were real with real consequences, and in at least a couple of cases I fell well short of the mark.

I hope I won't sound too arrogant (and that I may even be in good company) when I say that this was new experience for me. What shall I draw from it?

Possibly it's a sign I've reached the limits of my potential – but I don't believe that. I didn't work hard this year. I know I can do better, if nothing else because I now I could (should) have actually submitted that assesed work.

Possibly it's a sign that I lack motivation. This I'm more willing to accept. I love my subject: I generally enjoy the mathematical side, absoloutely adore the theory, and get a kick out of experiements when they are exciting. I even enjoy writing.

What I can't abide is tedium: the unfortunate but necessary things involved in doing work. In the laboratories this year, that tedium was manifest in the reports and notebooks – while I was in principle happy to do them, the practice of going through the procedure of a good laboratory report each time was something I developed an aversion to.

That was silly. It's something I need to be able to work past – on general principles, the ability to handle the boring parts of life so that one can get through to the good parts is a skill we all need to develop.

Then again, I've often thought my tolerance for tedium was pretty high; I'm wildly pedantic, enjoy useless information, I actually like creating databases and spreadsheets to help me solve problems, to the extent that I'll use them even when they're inefficient or inappropriate. So I don't feel it's just the tedium of the process that got me down.

Definitely there were time management issues.My time keeping has been very shoddy this year. It directly ffetced my assesed work because nine times out of ten I would find myself doing the whole thing the night before it was due in.

Hardly an unfamiliar problem for the average student, but rather than just causing me to rush work, I think I developed an association between the work and unnecessary stess and tiredness, such that I actually began to rebell against doing it at all.

After my first missed deadline, having discovered that, not only had the wrld not ended, no-one had even seemed to notice, it got rather easy to miss others. This is another lesson, and a sobering one – I have to be the one who notices if I'm screwing up. The department and/or my lecturers are not going to notice for me.

WHat I need to develop then is neither quite enthusiasm for my subject (I have that in spades) nor motivation to succeed, but more an internal drive – a physical compulsion – to work, consistently, regularly and well, even when it's unappealing.

I've survived too long by coasting – on my "natural intelligence", my general inquisitveness, my happiness with scholastic institutions – that I never develped the tough outer shell needed to persit when the going gets tougher. That time has now arrived, and I must step up.

As deep down, I want this. I want a degree. More than that, I want a career. I want a future. I want, if not t have fame or notoriety, to matter in my field.

I don;'t merely want to be a clever person, I want to be a driven one, a sucessful one. I want to be great.

Let's make it happen.


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