Okay, so let’s not freak out at the title (If you are Nikkee Porcaro, my mom or dad, or a teacher from JDS, don’t you worry, I’m not really failing ). It’s kind of sort of clickbait because I’m not actually failing… well, more like not failing yet (and hopefully not actually).
If you’ve read any of my previous college posts, you may know just how much I LOVE college.
I also love learning. I would most definitely classify myself as a nerd. I love to read, I love to write, and I love discovering new tidbits of information that open my eyes to the real perplexity of the earth and help me to understand it better.
That said, the structure of school and I have not always gotten along. As a student with severe ADHD and learning disabilities (we’ll get into those another time don’t you worry◡̈) due dates, assignments, and the other technical elements of schooling do not always support my success - to say the least. I also mean in normal circumstances where school is in person and I am able to establish relationships with my peers and teachers and have access to resources to support me in my struggles.
Now, let’s throw in Covid-19. Oh Covid, freaking Covid.
I was looking forward to the academic side of college. I had been out of school for months and genuinely missed working on assignments and internalizing academic material. Yes. You read that right, LOOKING FORWARD TO IT. I am a freak, I know, nothing new. I could not wait to fill my planner with due dates and organize all of my pretty little colored pens (yeah… I’m that b**ch with the obnoxious color-coded notes). It started off swell. I kicked off the semester so on top of my sh*t that I chose to add another course and subject myself to 19 credits. Perhaps that was my first mistake. Either way, I was addicted to the feeling of having it together and for the first time in a while being “the smart one”. But then, in the blink of an eye, everything came crumbling down.
↑ (pictured from left to right) my online math homework which would mark me incorrect for the wrong typing format (don't forget no partial credit because there's no showing work without paper), my set up at my dorm desk that I spent WAY too much time at feat. my obnoxious color-coding, and finally me about to take my first ever college exam whilst ill with Covid-19.
Zoom fatigue is a legitimate thing. There is a certain point at which you do not want to sit and stare at your computer anymore. The depressive emotions onslaught by the prolonged pandemic weigh you down and the reality of life today hits you full force. You barely want to get out of bed, let alone get out of bed just to sit in front of your computer. As I’ve said, I love learning. But let me tell you, this does not feel like learning.
↑ If you're an adult and you think you are seeing this... no you're not♡ No one ever skips, especially not our online classes! It's not too easy to just not open your computer, of course not!
There is no element of building a personal relationship with your professors, admiring their intellect so much that you are motivated to do well solely to impress them. It might sound silly, but my relationships with instructors are really vital to my performance. When I admire them, I am inspired to work hard for them and establish a rapport. Henceforth they develop standards for me and I work tirelessly to reach or surpass them. As an individual, my behaviorisms respond really well to such positive reinforcement. There is no such thing on zoom. Some professors even ask that we keep our cameras off because it is distracting to them. They do not know my name and surely would not recognize me if they ever met me. I have not met a single faculty member at my university in person. Not one. I am convinced that there are no adults on campus. Sure, I am in college and supposed to be independent and on my own, however, I am also a 19-year-old grappling to navigate the world and it feels like I’m drowning with nowhere to turn.
↑ Video depiction of how confused and frustrated I felt on a day to day basis.
The deficiency of personal relationships also extends to classmates and peers. Breakout rooms on zoom are a great tool for group work in theory, but if I had to use two words to describe my experiences with them, they would be: awkward silence. You sit in silence, faced with a screen of black squares labeled with names. It’s like being in class with the automated robotic responses you get when on the phone with customer service. Sometimes one brave kid will unmute themself and squeak out “soooo… how’s everyone doing?” This is met with sporadic responses of “fine”, “online school sucks”, and “okay, but I’m really not trying to do this work right now…” This goes on until finally you’re brought back to the class’s main session and one unlucky representative from your group fumbles to compose a response that sounds even remotely relevant to the course content. Or, worst-case scenario, the professor waits for someone to talk, and the static of silence rings out at full volume. You can’t help but cringe in your seat as your professor audibly sighs and tries to move on fully aware that they have almost no one’s full attention. How could they? An array of students are crammed at home while their parents and siblings are working simultaneously with nowhere available for the peace and quiet needed to focus. Others are on campus where they walk past buildings they should be bustling in and out of for courses. They are consumed by everything that they have lost and it eats away at them while they sit, alone in a dorm room, forced to accept their new normal of hours spent at their dorm desk on zoom followed by more hours at that dorm desk for homework. Sometimes, if they’re lucky and cases are low, perhaps they’ll move to the common room with a mask and a limit of two other students - how exciting!
↑ and another.
When you are not really meeting others in your courses, it is difficult to construct a network of peers with whom you can collaborate. Too many projects, intended as group work, I had to take on myself because, despite group chats and zoom calls, I could not find someone to work with. The extra work sucked, sure, but the loneliness was worse. The notion that you are in it alone sinks deeper and the cycle of agonizing frustration that’s been in revolution since March is, yet again, set in motion. You do not appreciate the camaraderie stimulated by complaints about your Professor’s strange tendency to use the color whiteboard marker least visible to literally everyone else or the excessive reading assigned but proven pointless come the exam until you do not have it. You may not consider your classmates friends or even acquaintances, as you do not speak outside of class, but nonetheless, they are just that: classmates. Another group of individuals that provided you with human interaction and whose presence reminded you that your suffering through school - for whatever your future goals are - is not endured alone.
I did not anticipate the impact these things would have on my academic performance. I think that sometimes when writing for this blog, I come off as condescending. Maybe my tone portrays the attitude that I have had certain experiences, and therefore am all holier than thou because I am now sharing said experiences and you should just take my word and derive ~meaning~ or lessons from it. LOL no. That is so far from what I am hoping to do and sound like here. Pardon my French, but I don’t know sh*t. I just like to write and ramble and hope that by some chance, someone can relate and it helps them to know that they’re not alone. Furthermore, just to reiterate that I am in no way, shape, or form, trying to put myself on a pedestal here, I’m going to be straight with you (aka the whole entire internet oops I’m really baring it all here); I did really poorly this semester. Not just like oh aw I got a B :( no like I did pretty damn poorly. There may be a class or two that I’m planning to retake. And sure, could the circumstances and pandemic be partially at fault? Absolutely. But, also, it’s a transition and a learning experience and clearly, I bit off more than I could really chew. Being a Freshman in college and all of the adapting that requires is a lot. I beat myself up over it plenty, but I guess all there is to do now is take it as fire lit under my ass and work said ass off moving forward. That said, I’m more than positive I will screw up again, and do not worry, I will most definitely take to this blog and the internet to complain about it again! So, stay tuned!
Oh, but all seriousness, remember: you are smart and capable no matter what your grades say. Yes, they matter and yes you should absolutely work your hardest and strive to do well. However, they do not define you - especially not amidst this pandemic. So keep your head up and stay strong. We’re not all cut out for conventional school, especially not online, but that does not mean that we’re not cut out for success. It may just take us some different paths to get there. I sure as heck hope that path does not include failing out of college Freshman year (because my parents would most definitely kill me and rightfully so ◡̈ ), but we’ll have to see what happens next semester I guess.
Here’s to a new year, a new start, and a new kick of motivation for me to get it together.