With a simple google search, you will see there are various different interpretations on the stages of grief. The 6 I think best encapsulate the stages of grief are as follows:
I have just finished my worst semester of college. My grade outlook: 3 Ds and an A (for a class on a language I already knew). This semester was supposed to be my last semester (officially), but very well may not be. This semester will ruin my gpa, and many job prospects. This semester has put me through a lot of stress, and walked me through these 6 stages of grief myself. Not necessarily grief about my grades, but a bigger picture.
It further led me through the grief of being different. From a young age, I always stood out from my peers…just not in the way that one would want to be. I was un-athletic but loved to play sports, I was bad at school but loved to learn, and had a wide range of ‘unique’ interests that many of the other kids in school couldn’t relate to. Back then, I won’t deny I was a weird kid, but I was unashamedly so.
I could work at something, and at the time, truly believe any dream was within arm’s reach. I worked hard to get praise from my peers, and making friends was just another one of my weird interests. No one thinks about ‘making friends’ as a goal in itself, most people can generally just, make friends. Fortunately, there were a few outliers like me at this time and I always found at least (probably at most also) one friend. One friend who was like me (or as close to that as I could ever have hoped). Even still, I always branched out to make new friends.
So what’s the point of this train of thought? Well…the point is that I’m different. Not just socially challenged, but in many other ways too. I’m proud to say that my social skills have blossomed from prolonged observation of the ones who do it best (high school jocks and t.v. personalities mostly), but some things can’t be changed so easily.
Studying and paying attention have always been challenging things for me to do. On a psychological level, yes, but also on a philosophical outlook also. Most of the time, information learned in school was dull to say the least. It wasn’t engaging, and became a painful task to do. Physically, I would say studying is equivalent to banging my head on a wall until my head became so cloudy I could not think properly. Psychologically, it IS what happened. I physically couldn’t sit and read a book about ‘world history’ without getting these uncontrollable migraines as a result of me trying to focus.
The sentiment of institutionalized, academic-induced pain is a concept that has stayed with me until college, and has forced me to resent the school system with a passion (among MANY other things, I’m now old enough to somewhat articulate well). I can now sit down with a book, but I have to have proper motivation for wanting to learn a subject.
The one thing I would like to refer to in this post is my overall lack of skills to perform well in school, even with all the previous (seemingly meaningless) hurdles overcome. I’ll explain it in the stages of grief.
When I first began taking my major classes at my university, I immediately began to notice a dissonance between myself and the other students. I somehow could no longer keep up. My study habits that I’ve built up over the span of intro classes could no longer rescue me, and I began to wonder how this could be. How could the professor I accused of being unclear have students getting As in his class while I’m receiving Ds? How could a student remember quotes from a passage I could only state an un-detailed gist for? This was both baffling and distressing and soon led me to:
After receiving my first D in college, I began to further question how I could be the problem. “No,” I thought, “It can’t be me.” This resulted in me studying extra hard in classes that escaped me the most. So mostly math classes. After receiving the previously mention ‘D’ grade (in a math class, not coincidentally), I worked hard at math, learning material way beyond my current capabilities. I learned many aspects of math from fundamentals of ‘Abstract Algebra’ to intro texts on ‘Statistics’, all the while denying the possibility that I just wasn’t as good. I placed the fault in my study habits, and ended up taking a stats class to win back my confidence in math and this class is where I experienced my stage of:
In this class that I thought I was prepared for, I quickly found out after the first few homeworks, that I was not as skilled as I’d hoped. The training did NOT pay off. I was angry at myself and the field of mathematics as a whole, I was angry at the people who were good at it and made me feel stupid, and I was angry at the fact that this was no longer a pure result of improper study habits. Something I studied recreationally, for an extended period of time. What WAS the problem? It might’ve been me, “but let’s just be sure,” I thought. How about I take this to another level and study an entire course worth’s of content and give THAT a try? Which brings me to:
Finally, I accepted the fact I knew all along – I am not good at math. The only thing is I needed one more math credit, so I decided to take an intro level proof class to make it up. I could have taken an easier discrete math class, but I wanted to write proofs and ‘bargained’ to myself that since I shouldn’t do higher level math, I should at least put my hard earned mathematical improvement somewhere. Of course this didn’t work out (as I quickly observed after the first test), and so, in the middle of the semester I would spend nights staring off into space thinking about the hopelessness of studying for a subject as much as possible, to still meet a failing grade at the end. As you can probably tell, this takes us to:
I could not do math. I’ve made a big mistake. I chose the harder proof writing class over the discrete math class that probably would’ve been the wisest decision (being in CS, I’ve worked with pure discrete math probably the most out of all the subjects). I will fail this class, and I will fail future classes. These thoughts swarmed my head, and eventually I fell into a despair. There’s no story of how I exited the despair because I didn’t. I’ve reached the end of my journey and exploration of my mathematical skill, and was ready to accept the fact that this wasn’t something that could come easily to me. Maybe with a lifetime of practice I could get somewhat good, but then again, I feel the same way about learning to play basketball at the NBA level. Some goals can’t be reached, or even if it could, sometimes the work that put into the task isn’t worth the reward gotten out of it. Just as if someone who was told they could learn the all of aerospace engineering in a day would soon come to find out the impossibility of their task, so did I in being able to succeed in the class. I’ve now come to:
At this point, I’ve made peace. I continued to try just hard enough to try (as my performance always staggered after about the 10th hour of [non-contiguous] studying), and would accept any grade I would receive. Preferably, it wouldn’t have to be a failing grade (I REALLY don’t want to take another math class), but I’ve done all I could. I’ve studied, and studied, and studied, and still reached a dead end. This class was different though. It was never anything I didn’t understand on the test; I just couldn’t remember the theorems. The same theorems and lemmas that have probably had at least had 30 minutes allocated to each of them could now no longer be retrieved from my mind. Anyway it’s all done now and hopefully I can recuperate and learn from this crushing experience with a lesson learned: Shoot for the moon, but know you may not break the stratosphere.