A few weeks ago, I had a short research paper on Bali due on Friday. I had to email it to my anthropology professor at some point during the day; it didn't matter when. Simple, right? No, not really. This is the story of my epic struggle against distraction, which, I've found, is a constant and almost irresistible force at college.
The story starts on Wednesday night, which was when I figured I might want to get started on the research. I poked around on the library website a bit, found a few websites on Bali, and went to capoeira club. Afterwards I hung out in my friend's room for the rest of the evening, figuring I'd done enough. Mistake #1.
On Thursday, I realized I would need to actually get all the research done and start writing the paper that night, or I would be stuck staying in and staring at a computer screen until midnight on Friday. At about 8:30 PM, I settled down with a box of Hot Tamales and found some bad rap to blast (for some reason this is my formula for study motivation) and went at it in earnest, researching like crazy – for about fifteen minutes, at which point I got a call from my dad. I hadn't talked to him in a long time, and there were things we needed to discuss, such as how we were concerned about the Red Sox. So I talked to him for about half an hour. Mistake #2.
After that, I found the rest of my sources and read through them (all the while thinking, "Bali is actually fascinating! Why did I leave this until the last minute when I can't really take it all in?") At about 10:00 I started my paper, by which I mean I typed out the header and wrote the first sentence, which made me feel accomplished enough that I could permit myself a visit to my friends down the hall. Mistake #3. I ought to have known that when I go to my friends' rooms, I never end up leaving until the next day (we've been known to sit up talking until one or two).
On Friday I knew that I absolutely had to knuckle down. As soon as I was done with classes I headed back to my room and burst in ready to do battle with this paper – but my roommate was on the phone. Ordinarily I don't mind noise while I work, but this was an exceptional situation. Undaunted, I took my laptop to the lounge, where I discovered that it had no battery power left. I went back, got the cord, found an outlet and plugged it in. Then I decided I needed a soda. One can of Pepsi later, I was ready for action – and discovered a whole bunch of my friends hanging out in one of their rooms. I stopped in. Mistake #4.
I finally extricated myself an hour later and went back to work. I'd been writing with a vengeance for two hours when my friend Liz arrived and dragged me off to go apple picking. Mistake #5.
At 6:30 PM I returned to the dorm, stomach full of cider donuts and brain full of worry. I had essentially finished the paper itself, but still needed to edit it and put together the bibliography. As I sat there bibliographing at lightning speed, horrific visions of a Friday night spent alone with my citations flashed before my eyes. Then and there I resolved never to let myself be distracted like this again.
Eventually I did finish the paper, and it didn't ruin my night. But I realized very vividly how many dangerous distractions there are in college. At home, I was essentially safe in my house – it would be unusual for someone to burst in and try to drag me somewhere (although it did happen). At college, there are constant and persistent temptations to avoid. I'm hoping this experience has fortified me against these temptations. We'll see.
I would give this entry a better ending, but I hear music from down the hall... just kidding. On a random note (since that seems to be how I'm ending these entries), there was tuna steak in the dining hall last night and it was very good. There is also cranberry juice now, which is a big plus. I still haven't gotten that paper back, by the way, which might be a good thing. I'll give an update next week...