Saturday, March 26, 2005

The decent but unmotivated student

From The Geographer's Library (a library that doesn't really contain books, just objects). Here's Paul's description of his academic life:

"It felt like a couple of years and another lifetime ago that I'd shuffled around this place as a decent but unmotivated student, one who wrote good essays out of habit and considered graduate school as a means of avoidance, but really could never make himself care quite enough about colonial American sock darning or gun barrels in czarist Russia. It wasn't a lack of curiosity as much as it was a lack of committed curiosity: I'd love to know about, say, hardtack production in Vermont or how the innovations of Catherine the Great's chief gunsmith prefigured the Kalashnikov, but I really didn't want to do much with the knowledge other than consider it, turn it around in my mind, imagine it into three dimensions. I certainly didn't want to spend decades poring through archives and nitpicking over secondary sources in order to dispute it." (p28)

When I was an undergraduate I was also a decent but unmotivated student -- until senior year, when I was a seriously depressed, just surviving until graduation student. Then I fell into law school -- cheap (state school), no essays in the application, high-school type atmosphere (small, cliquey, classes with the same group of people...). I knew early on lawyering wasn't for me, but changing tracks midway required more energy than I possessed. You shouldn't ever make important decisions in the midst of a depression -- career choices, mate selection, etc. Trust me on that; it was a tough lesson.

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