School has this weird habit of taking over your life. Don’t get me wrong. I love nothing better than delving into a challenging project, making flashcards and practicing problems. But I shouldn’t allow it to encroach on valuable time with my wife and family, stop me from doing a fun activity like a hiking or snowboarding every once in a while—and it should never give me bad dreams ( meaning it has)!
Just this week, I got my first homework assignment back. I worked on it a lot—but avoided the mind-numbing habit of trying to solve a seemingly unsolvable problem, and saved those to ask the professor later. I tied it up with a nice bow and turned it in. This week, I got it back. And I got a 42%. Below average. After holding back the enormous rage-fit that I felt coming on, I managed to calm myself. I would email the TA, and, instead of asking the usual, “Why is my grade so bad? I think you’re wrong,” I decided to ask for feedback and to look at the grading rubric so I could better know what to expect on future assignments. I was pretty proud of being so humble… ha. That’s just kind of unheard of for me. And I was glad I was able to carry on with my life without it.
But I quickly feel myself getting sucked into the homework pattern of life again. I thought I’d write about three things that keep me sane.
The first is, well, actually a class of all things. These past two semesters, I’ve been taking an engineering class that is like no other class I’ve yet taken. We’re building a car. That runs on wood. There is no normal pattern of turning in assignments or taking tests. Your only responsibility is to do your part in the project, and mine is working to build a gas conditioning system for the syngas our car will be running on. Talk about awesome! I put in several hours downtown at the lab learning crazy things like how to weld, how to thread pipe and how to operate an acetylene torch. Things I would have NEVER in my wildest dreams imagined myself doing (I thought changing my oil would be the farthest I would get into working on cars or doing anything mechanical for that matter). Yesterday, we dropped by IFA to get some hay for our “biological fiber filter.” That’s some awesome homework! Even when I have mounds of other assignments to do, it feels great to spend a few hours in the lab and forget about it.
Second is my morning time I spend in the scriptures. I think the mornings are the most important part of my day, because they determine what I’ll be focused on the rest of the day. If I wake up and immediately start worrying about the assignments I have due or the projects I need to work on, I’ll be stressed out the entire day. I’ve given them priority in my mind. But if I read some verses in the scriptures, I’ve given myself something to turn to in my mind the rest of the day. Today I was reading in the Sermon on the Mount: “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thin own eye?” I start to think. I wonder how Jesus felt when he learned this truth. I wonder if it came like an epiphany one day, or if he just knew it. Christ learned line upon line, just like us. I start to think about myself, moments when I feel I wasn’t giving people slack. And I can always turn to those verses throughout the day.
Finally, my Institute class. I’m taking an evening New Testament class this semester. I wrote down one experience I had last week when we were learning about Saul. I always have deep, lasting impressions at Institute. Epiphanies and the like. I’ve dedicated that time to the Lord, and when I walk in, I can leave everything else behind.
There are so many other things that help me too. My time with my family at Sunday dinners. My work in the temple I do every Saturday. Writing in my journal and in this blog. Planning out my week on a sheet of paper, so I don’t have to hold all the due dates and meeting times all in my head. I think that is my way of being in the world but not of the world. A lot of my time is occupied with my job and with my studies, but I don’t let them become a master. It is something I do, but it isn’t who I am.