Finals week are approaching, and it is nothing if not a long, tedious and stressful affair. Students in our grade have to take eleven exams for the finals; including the language that you’re majoring in, your social studies elective(geography or economics), your required science subject (chemistry or biology), and one choice from either physics or sociology&culture.
I’m a spanish major myself, and I have physics, biology and economics as my electives. Since biology was notorious for its sheer overwhelming amount of material to study (and also the fact that the topic had to be genetics and heredity), physics for everyone’s collective inability to understand and economics for its complexity, many others with the same electives as I did were reduced to the verge of tears; even without all the other subjects, it was just too much.
Fortunately for me, I was rather blessed as to be able to understand most of the material given to me, and as a result, many of my classmates come to me to inquire about questions that they had while studying the material. I had somehow become the substitute teacher for most of my classmates, and to be perfectly honest, it was a really good feeling. Pride at the fact that I managed to understand something that so many others didn’t, gratitude at the fact that all these people trusted me to know the answer and to inform them accordingly, but also the strange feeling of achievement that came whenever I manage to explain something and the friend would leave with a, “You’re really good at this! Not just the material, but at explaining, too!”
I never minded people asking that of me; I know a lot of people with grades much higher than mine respond to such requests with a, “No thanks, I’m busy and I have a lot on my own plate right now.” But I tried not to do that if possible. Not just because I’ve too frequently been on the other side of such an exchange while in middle school, but also because it really was a win-win exchange. And I liked the feeling too. A lot. So I basically became the go-to person for biology, economics and physics.
In the final days before the actual exams began, it really began to peak. But something interesting happened regarding the issue. On my last period today, I’d basically given up studying for my own material, sporadically interrupted as it was by such questions, and had taken up to chatting with my classmates.
They were both taking economics as their electives, and were part of the social studies branch(as opposed to the science branch in Korean high schools). One of them were basically giving up on economics after a particularly hard question, and was demanding why I, a science branch-er, had better understanding of economics than he did. The other friend was defending my position (while I sat back and tried to claim that no, I’m not that good at economics) by telling the former of my affinity for economics, not just the school subject but in general. I’d once told him that I had read Guns, Germs and Steel and New Ideas from Dead Economists before, and he was saying that ‘she reads these things for fun, you know. She’s really interested in all of it, regardless of her branch.’
I was just sitting back, not sure how to participate in the conversation when the topic was about me, when a friend came over with an economics inquiry. I eagerly explained the relevant terms related to it, how to solve the problems with that information, and had just send her away when I realized my defender from before was looking at me with a curious stare. I asked why was he staring like that. The conversation went something like this:
“You must really like studying a lot, and I mean really.”
“…and whatever gave you that impression?”
“Just now, when you were answering her question? And explaining the material? Your eyes had this sparkle in it. The type that tells you, ‘I am so happy to be here, to be doing this right now. I feel so awesome.'”
Although my friend was a little off on exactly what had captivated me so much in that moment, it really made me think. I chose economics as opposed to geography not only because I hated geography with a passion but because I actually liked economics.
I enjoyed the time I spent in class learning the material, the feeling of achievement whenever I successfully tackled a particularly hard question and got it right. I’m not really sure if I started to like it because I was good at it, or if I came to be good at it because I liked it, but I definitely know that the two things worked as a positive feedback system: I started to put more effort into economics despite it not being particularly necessary for my college admissions, and getting good grades on the subject suddenly wasn’t a hardship anymore, especially compared with when I was in middle school.
Upon this epiphany, I was reminded of the old saying that goes something like this: “Geniuses cannot prevail over the ones who try hard, but even the ones who try hard must admit defeat to the ones who enjoy.” I’m not saying that I’m the epitome of academics or anything even close to that suggestion, but even from my case it is clear. Whatever your motivation for enjoying a subject, once you do, you achieve a level previously unimagined by just trying to ‘study’ a subject.
I’m not saying you should force yourself to enjoy something; if it were possible, such a saying wouldn’t even have a need to exist. But one’s reason for enjoying something need not be complex either – it could even be as simple as a form of attachment following a valiant effort. Heaven knows it worked for me at least. But thinking about that ‘sparkle’, about doing what I truly enjoy – I couldn’t help but feel warm inside, because it managed to reaffirm my passion: communication, and the sharing of information. People have suggested teaching as a legitimate prospect for my future, and to be perfectly honest, I’m not too strongly opposed to the idea either; I suppose we’ll see.
P.S. Finals are three days away and look at what I’ve just done! I really must be reluctant to study