Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Procrastination at its Finest

I've just one question: what did I do to procrastinate writing papers in college...before the blogging age? I can't remember. It was too long ago.

This post is brought to you by the letters P-R-O-C-R-A-S-T-I-N-A-T-I-O-N and the number 7 (remember that from Sesame Street? Why did they do that? Granted, they didn't spell out 5 syllable words...if they had, we might all be smarter for it!).

All right, here's the deal. I go to Harvard. Actually, Havahd. That's right, folks. I'm a student at one of the most prestigious Ivy League schools in America. What I am always quick to add is that I go to what is essentially Harvard Community College. That pretty much took all the prestige out of my Ivy League-ness, didn't it?

Harvard has what they call the Harvard Extension School. I like to think that they are the same professors, same classes, same difficulty...just offered to the Average Jane. There's no application, just enroll in the classes, pay tuition, and you can start earning undergrad or graduate credits with a Harvard sticker on it. Not too bad! I'm taking an Art History course on two American painters from the late 19th-century: James McNeill Whistler (Arrangement in Grey and Black: Portrait of the Painter's Mother, right) and John Singer Sargeant (The Daughters of Edward D. Boit, below) (apparently, back in the late-1800s it was en vogue to have three names...maybe I'll bring it back. Just call me Amy Rebecca B****). The course material has been fascinating. The field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (note the three names again) was spectacular. My professor is interesting and well-read. All good things.

It has been slightly over 5 years since I graduated from the BYU. I've matured, become more responsible, adopted adult behaviors, etc. I thought at the beginning of the semester, I would for sure get on top of writing the paper that is due at the last class. I would write an outline, seek peer review, talk the subject matter over with my professor, engage in serious study and research, discover hidden gems of knowledge, and basically write the most incredible paper of my academic career. After all, I am 5 years older and wiser and have most definitely kicked my procrastination habit of yesteryear.

Hmmm....maybe I should outline that procrastination habit. It's a term familiar with many of the 18-24 crowd: the all-nighter. Yes, friends, I was the queen of nocturnal genius. I would procrastinate and stress for 4 months and then, finally, when the fear of failure and (Heaven forbid!) a grade lower than a B- threatened to embarrass me and my GPA, I would set to work.

My wonderful boss at the ORCA office would let me stay late. I would gear up with a 16-0z. Cherry Coke (most definitely bought off-campus) and all the books I could possibly find from the library remotely related to my topic and head to the 2nd floor of the ASB. I would spread out all my sources and start scouring. Going through, roughly, 2 pads of sticky notes, I would mark all relevant passages in between swigs of Cherry Coke and a quick run to the basement vending machines (which--in the dark building, at night, and all by myself--totally creeped me out) for Peanut M&Ms. Sometime around midnight, my brother, Brian, would call me up and see how I was doing. He was always good like that.

I would work tirelessly, melding quotes and paraphrased ideas into workable thoughts. I delighted in using the thesaurus to find interesting words that, while still sounding like my own "voice," would make me also sound like a scholar (sure fooled them!). I'd experiment with various fonts and letter spacing to make 2 measly 3-sentence paragraphs (double-spaced) fill the entire page, along with strategically placed images that had been carefully resized to be as large as possible without looking fuzzy. Yes, I had mastered the art of all-night paper writing.

Sometime around 7am, my boss would show up. Bleary-eyed and haggard, I would smile at him and say good morning. He learned to not be surprised to find me there the next morning. My late-night paper writing became a normal thing because I repeated the process every semester for the 3 1/2 years I worked at ORCA.

I would then head off to class, hoping to make it on time to turn my paper in. And, I may be bragging a touch, but I don't recall ever getting a grade lower than an A- on my research papers. I was pretty good at pressure-writing.

But, a lot can change in 5 years. As we've already established: I still procrastinate. Now, my fear is that I a) won't have the stamina to pull an all-nighter and b) have lost the nocturnal research-paper-writing genius that carried me through college. What if part of growing up is losing that seemingly innate ability to wordsmith and compose intelligent-sounding phrases out of the thin, 3am air??

If so, I'm sunk.

The paper is due Monday evening. I'll almost definitely be consulting sources in a frenzy and prying my eyelids open around 2am that morning. Hmmm...after a five-year all-nighter hiatus, maybe I'd better make it a 2-liter Cherry Coke.


Brian and Julia Buell said...

So, how did that paper go? You have a way with words so I'm sure it was a good paper. Let me know if I need Brian to call you in the middle of the night to check up on you. He keeps some pretty crazy hours so he might even be up.

Jennifer said...

I also found it hard to break the procrastination habit when I always get decent grades on the paper/project. Best of luck...I'm sure you still have it in you!

Garrison Propaganda said...

cheers--anthony would clink his dr pepper with your cherry coke for your last few nights. hes been working fevershily to finish off the semester.

going back to school sounds fun, except the all nighter bit. but i thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog.

Jen said...

Are we the same person? I'm pretty sure you're my mind twin.

angelalois said...

AMY. I am TAGGING YOU so you'll post already!

Eric said...

Being in India made me miss this! I really need to keep up with blogs more. How'd you do on this paper?

Hernandez Family said...

So - I check this periodically to see if you have updated....it's been almost a year now Amy! Where are you?!?

Amy said...

Dear Friends and Family and People Who Care If I'm Alive:

I'm embarrassed. I haven't posted in over a year. WELL over a year.

Things have happened, I've gone places, I've done things.

And, I am still alive. And in Boston. And leading a quasi-boring life.

More on THAT the next time I decide to write a post!

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