It seems every semester’s end brings with it a sense of regret and shame. Though I am in the midst of completing papers and exams, I am left with a feeling that I could have done better. I could have tried harder. I could have done a little more research for this paper and invested a little more time in it.
When I confide in friends and family members about this sense of regret, they are all quick to comfort. “You put in a lot of work on that paper!” or “Don’t beat yourself up! You’re a good student.” Yet these comforts do not asuage my guilt, probably because I know exactly how much work I put into that paper and no, it wasn’t that much work; or, I know that my grades show me to be a good student, but I have a creeping sense that good grades do not a good student make.
So what gives? I suspect it is a sense that I have been too nice to myself throughout the semester: I have taken too many breaks, gotten too much sleep, fiddled around on too many creative side-projects, and skimmed through too many books instead of delving into them and digesting them. But by all other standards, I am a good student.
Perhaps I’ve hit gold and just not known it. Perhaps, the thing after which I have sought for years in my academic life–sanity and health–are finally working themselves into my consciousness. Can it be? Can I truly be in the process of becoming stable in my academic pursuits to the point that I can exist happily in more than just the academic realm?
For now, I’ll go with that. But for the time being, I have twenty-five hours now in which to write yet another paper for which I feel I have done too little research, and to complete another semester for which I suspect I have not sacrificed enough of myself to merit my good grades.