If I could find a good way to count them, I’m sure I would find hundreds of thousands or perhaps even millions of blog posts going up like this one: school is over! It’s summertime! Woohoo! I finished last Friday by turning in a fifteen page paper and then took a well-deserved (I think) vacation with my wife. I’m not in reflective mode quite yet, as I have yet to fully recover from the fatigue of the semester, but it’s worth thinking about a few things that I’m not going to do next year.
First, I’m not going to take three classes at a time again. Three books per week, ranging from 600 to 1000 pages of reading in total, is just too much to absorb. I really like to read, but I didn’t like reading that much. Reading began to feel like little more than an exercise in data gathering. I found it hard to enjoy even the really well-written books because I was so conscious of how long it took me to savor the writing. I simply didn’t have the time to spend with books to make the entire experience enjoyable. I came to class nervous that I had overlooked some important point in my (necessary) haste and I think the quality of my work suffered a little bit because of it. That said, I’m taking a summer class in June rather than take three classes next semester, and I think that’s a really good thing.
Second, I’m not going to put off socializing next semester. Some of the most interesting things I learned this semester and the most insightful analyses of books came not in the classroom but after workshops and at a few local watering holes. Classroom experiences are structured to promote a particular type of answer to a particular type of question – they don’t prioritize the type of free response, free association interpretations typical of less formal settings. Classroom responses are valuable because they ask students to stay on point and succinctly address particular questions using arguments. Social settings allow elaboration, rabbit-trails, and strange connections in a comfortable atmosphere.
I also made a few changes near the middle of the semester that I’m going to keep through next semester. The most important of these was getting some exercise. I feel like my whole life changed when I started cycling again – especially getting out into nature on my mountain bike. For whatever reason, my mind takes a really nice break when I’m on the bike – I guess there is enough for it to do picking out the correct lines and watching for obstacles. I tend not to stress out over my work when I’m on the bike. It feels like a little escape. So I’m going to continue riding through next semester, as long into the winter as I can and then as soon as I can in the spring.