17 March 2014
Though it may have taken me a bit to set myself down to do my revisions, once I did I found that I really enjoyed the process. When I looked back to choose my two informal pieces, I realized that I couldn’t really find anything that I felt drastically different towards. Overall, the change in my thinking has been a lot more subtle, and I was a bit confused about how to go about revising my work. At first I thought that I had to show some striking change of thought from the beginning to the end of the quarter. However, if I were to do this, my revisions wouldn’t be honest. So I decided to approach the revision process as a means of reflection. I read back over my pieces and thought about how they related to the insights I’d gained throughout the quarter. I then wrote new reflective portions for each piece, in which I connected my original learning notes and critical reading log to new ideas and examples. In a sense, my revision process was one of approaching from a slightly different angle and adding a fresh twist. Through revising, I’ve noticed that there’s been a theme for me this quarter of re-envisioning things with new perspectives. I’ve found that trying to approach concepts and challenges from new angles, even when it’s not instinctual, can be the best way to gain insight.
For the research essay, I first went through and fixed all the little things, just so I would have a fresh canvas to work on the bigger issues. I then went through and brainstormed how I would fix the other areas that needed attention. The biggest challenge in this revision process was understanding and figuring out how to tackle the self-esteem issue. After meeting with Professor Rashedi and looking over the questions she sent my way, I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should do to remedy these areas of my paper. It was challenging to figure out how to balance the new perspective that had been shared with me with the research I had at my disposal, all without turning my paper into a discussion on self-esteem given that it was only one aspect of my research. However, after much casual, non-stressful contemplation, I was able to organize my jumbled thoughts and create a plan of action. I then called my dad, who had read my paper and has been one of my personal sounding walls during this whole process. I explained my thoughts to him to see if they made sense from an outside perspective. Having been reassured by our conversation, I then set myself down to make my revisions.
I realize now how important it is to give yourself the time you need to do things properly. When faced with editing this final paper, I knew that I wasn’t going to make any efficient or insightful revisions to these areas for a while. However, I didn’t stress out about the fact that I put off doing those revisions. Just as when writing my first draft of the research essay, I stopped thinking of it as procrastinating, and simply accepted the fact that waiting to do the work was the good and appropriate decision given the task at hand, my mental state, other schoolwork, and personal obligations. I’ve come to understand that I work more efficiently and with less stress when I relax and allow myself the time to really figure out what I’m doing before I dive in, even if it means working with a closer deadline. I know now that just because you have the time to get started on something doesn’t always mean that it’s the best time to get started on it. Putting things off for a while doesn’t have to be irresponsible, so long as you’re doing it for the right reasons.
One of the biggest insights I’ve gained this quarter, both from this class and life in general, is that where you devote your thoughts and attention shapes your reality. What you consistently think of and repeat in your daily life is both what gets put out into the world and what comes back to you. On a very specific level, this relates to my revisions of my critical reading log. Looking into the idea of residual media and, by extension, concepts, I realized that there was a discrepancy between how modern researchers perceived self-esteem and how my peers and I understood it. The problem is that this newer understanding of what self-esteem entails and how unhealthy it can be exists, but that newer understanding is not yet being repeated and shared by your everyday American. The old understanding persists because we continually use it in our everyday life, and thus, we perpetuate an old definition for a concept with newer, more complex connotations. In light of this topic, it has become clear to me that it’s not enough that research happens or that discoveries are made. For any new insights, concepts, or discoveries to become a part of the everyday person’s reality, the information needs to be promoted, repeated, and diffused throughout our culture. This is illustrated only too clearly by our country’s epidemic fear of vaccines. It doesn’t seem to matter that researchers have found no evidence of vaccines being harmful because the words of an uninformed few continue to be repeated in our day-to-day lives.
This brings me to my second insight: words are powerful, and you need to be careful with how you use them. Certain words, such as stress, can have strong, negative connotations, and by repeatedly throwing them out into your personal atmosphere, you create for yourself a cloud of negativity. It’s simply not healthy to keep breathing that stuff in because then it enters your bloodstream and it’s all downhill from there. Granted, I may be getting a little carried away with my metaphors, but at my high school there was a lot of talk about stress and being stressed out, and that’s how high school felt: stressful. Granted, even our most mindful teachers believed our school was unnecessarily rigorous, to the point that most of us return to say that college is relaxing by contrast. At the same time, I think part of the reason college has been so much less stressful for me is because people here don’t really talk much about being stressed out.
In fact, I’ve decided to ban the word “stress” from my vocabulary because I find that it really doesn’t do anything good for me. Even the way it sounds makes me feel tense and panicked. Now I know that I can’t just decide to never feel stress again; however, I’ve decided to substitute the word “overwhelmed” to describe the feeling. For me, “stress” is this out-of-control, crazy nervous, high-strung feeling. “Overwhelmed,” on the other hand, sounds much softer. It’s meaning is spread out over more letters, and I can think of ways to deal with being “overwhelmed.” For example, I might take a nap or make a cup of tea. For me, “stress” is wide-eyed with clenched teeth, whereas “overwhelmed” simply sighs with an accepting, if not tired, smile.
I’ve also learned that when I do feel overwhelmed, it’s important to give myself time for breaks. Part of the reason we always talked so much about being stressed out in high school was because we really didn’t have much time to do anything but school work. My thoughts and attention became so focused on it that I lost a sense of perspective towards life. Thankfully, coming to SCU last quarter and dealing with the challenges I faced really helped me to start regaining this sense of perspective towards school (i.e. that it’s only one aspect of my life, and not always the most important). Looking back at my learning notes, I realize that this quarter has really been a journey of putting that new perspective into practice. I realize now how necessary breaks are, both for my mental health as well as my academic success. Taking time every day to unwind and laugh with friends, go for a run, or call your family, is of the utmost importance. Doing these things reminds me that there are many aspects to my life and helps me to go back and face my work with a more open, sunny attitude.
Having breaks is also important because it allows me to reflect on what I’ve been learning. I find that I understand and appreciate what I’m learning much more when I can afford to spend some time just thinking about the material or talking it out with my family and friends. Making those personal decisions to devote attention to my studies really turns learning into something I choose, which I find helps to cement concepts in a deeper understanding. It’s funny, because as my workload was beginning to overwhelm me this quarter, I decided that I’d just tackle things as quickly as possible. However, I realize now that taking the time to stop, clear my head, and ground myself in other aspects of life is actually a much more “efficient” use of my time in the long run. It has been a fascinating and incredibly insightful quarter, and I’m excited to discover where I’m headed next.