There’s something I haven’t learned at uni
…and I’m realizing it now as I graduate
As I exited my very last class of the semester, after 3 hours of presentations from each person or group, I couldn't help feeling bittersweet. The class was hands down one of my favorites. I took it on a whim that it might teach me some useful skills before graduation, and happened to luck out.
Which is why I was left feeling so disappointed when I finished my half-assed presentation that day. You know what it feels like when, in the middle of presenting you make the mistake of resting your gaze on one particularly un-enthused person as they skeptically frown at your slides… your brain goes into panic overdrive and the rest seems to go downhill.
Then, if you’re anything like me, you spend several hours or days over-thinking and re-living the class, trying to explain to yourself what went wrong.
I’m not a bad presenter. I could definitely learn a thing or two about time management (like, I should probably be revising for my exams right now rather than writing this article). I surround myself with good people who lift up my spirits. I procrastinate like crazy and am fully aware of it when I do.
But these are not the problems that I have “yet to learn” or deal with. This is not the “lesson at uni” that I’m talking about.
At uni the basis of education is competition. It’s made that way to prepare us for the workforce where, as our peers theatrically warn us, the competition will be a lot fiercer. One hears of ruthless employers, arduous work hours and promotion-hungry colleagues who will readily stomp on your soul to get ahead.
Competition at university is perhaps a bit more detached. In reality, we’re judged against one another, but when our GPA results are fed to us through our portal, it might seem as though we just have to work on improving ourselves. It can be downright disheartening when you do feel as though you are improving, and you do put in more hours and more work, to discover that that God-awful number has not budged one bit from its previous unimpressive resting place. Taunting you. “Ha! Thought you were doing better, eh? Think again! Mwahahaha…”
And then the conversations begin. With our friends, or our “frenemies,” with our professors, our classmates, maybe even with our parents. Conversations about our GPA. (The three letters that, by the way, I hope I will never have to hear or think about, in that combination, ever again).
How high did it climb? How low did it drop? DID YOU HEAR that [Insert Name] got [Insert Number] last semester? Oh my God! How do they do that? It’s okay, it’s okay, this sem I’m taking a couple of easy courses. Yup, and I heard this professor is an easy grader. Pfft, relax you already speak good [Insert Language], you’ll get an A for sure.
The problem with my relationship with the grading system is that I have not really understood yet in my brain, that no matter what GPA or grade I get, there will always be a higher grade. There will always be the possibility of getting a higher GPA. There will definitely always be someone who got better grades than me.
And you know what?
Sometimes you need to make peace with the fact that what you've done, what you've delivered is good enough. It was the best that you could do at the time.
The inherent competition with others, the ongoing competition with myself, this has all made me constantly question whether or not what I've done was the best that I could. “Best” is such an exhausting idea though. Nobody is the best at anything.
By this, I of course don’t mean that we should just give up and stop caring.
My point is that I have not yet learned how to be satisfied with my work, in full confidence that whatever I do, it is inadvertently always the best I could do at the time. If something is done, it is done. My presentation in my final class should not have taken up any more space in my brain after I finished it, with useless worrying and over-analyzing. It’s in the past already. It does absolutely no good to my peace of mind or to my personal happiness to look back and regret anything I said or did.
Acting in the full confidence that I am always doing the best that I can do, with the intention of learning from past mistakes to improve of course, but without delving into regret and despair — that’s what I need to learn.
University, if anything, has made me more agitated about my work, about my standards. The culture at university simply doesn't allow for you to be satisfied with good enough.
But that’s what I need to learn — or rather, unlearn — from uni. Being accepting and kind to myself and my work. I have a hunch that it will make me a happier person when I learn to do that.