I have decided to apply to graduate school.
I’ve been thinking about it for a while and I finally decided that I would like to repot my brain: put it into some fresh soil and give it a chance to spread its roots. While there are no guarantees I’ll be accepted, I’ve decided I will apply and see what happens.
Making this decision felt good; it was energizing, invigorating. I learned that I would need to take a graduate entrance exam, so I bought a study book. The book sat contentedly on my shelf for several weeks, at the end of which I was no better prepared to take the test than I had been before I bought the book. I realized drastic measures were called for: I took the book off the shelf.
Once I actually started, I discovered it wasn’t so bad. I happily filled in the little blanks on the sample multiple choice questions. I hadn’t done a multiple choice test in… a lot of years. I rapidly filled in all the blanks and looked back on my work with satisfaction. This test-taking wasn’t nearly as scary as I feared. Then I corrected the answers.
That’s when the trouble started.
I got a lot of answers wrong. I read the question wrong. I read the answer wrong. I failed to read the entire list of possible answers and picked a trick answer that, while it might have been correct in some possible context, was clearly not the “best fit.” I looked back at all my mistakes and felt like putting that book right back on the shelf.
Instead, I went out to my garden. Since I threw out my back, I had been avoiding weeding my garden. I could say it was because of back pain but the truth is my back just provided a nice excuse to ignore the tall weeds now threatening to overtake my wax beans. I sat down in the garden and got busy. I would make up for lost time, clear out all these pesky weeds, and be done in time for lunch. I hastily grabbed a fistful of weeds and saw, with alarm, that I had uprooted an entire bean plant, little beans and all.
A pattern had begun to emerge.
I like grand gestures, decisive action, big transformative change. There is a power and energy in saying, “Yes! I will go to grad school, build a boat, run a marathon, learn French!” I forget that what I am deciding is not simply to go and do this big exciting thing. I am deciding to dedicate enough time and energy to actually accomplish my big, exciting goal.
More slowly now, I started to weed. I examined each fistful before pulling as if it was a tricky multiple choice question. “Any beans in this bunch? Am I sure? Am I really sure?” It went a lot slower. Even with my new careful approach, another bean plant bit the dust before I got the hang of it.
But eventually, even through my gloves, I could feel the difference between the tricky weeds and my long-suffering wax beans. I started to get a feel for it and, as I got better, it did go faster.
And sometime in there, I noticed I was having fun.
I was not rushing. I was not imagining the garden weed-free before lunch. I was simply weeding, one fistful at a time. The sun was shining and I was doing something that I had decided to do— and slowly getting better.
Till next time,