Don’t count on a warm beach in Florida to study for finals. In addition, don’t count on a ski trip to Wisconsin to study either. When going to a new place to study, something will always distract you. It takes a lot of external encouragement plus immense willpower just to crack open a math book, and even more to actually take a piece of paper out and start studying. That’s the case at home, and it’s even harder doing the same in a beach town in Florida or a ski town in Wisconsin.
This is a lesson I learned over the past few weeks that I want to share with other Niles Westerners. A few weeks before winter break, I was the one who suggested going to Florida to study for finals. I had it all laid out in my mind. Many agree that studying can be boring or frustrating and even agonizing at times. My goal was to make studying as pleasant and tranquil as possible. I, like many others, don’t have an urge to study. It’s just not something that people naturally want to do.
Studying for anything has always been a challenge. I guess I’m a decent student, but even when I do a lot of studying, I always have to push myself to work, especially on subjects that aren’t my favorite. So I wanted to do something unique. I wanted to study in some kind of environment or atmosphere where I would push myself to do those math problems or read that part about cellular respiration, not because I needed to, but because I wanted to. Maybe, I mused to myself, it was the surroundings I was studying in that made me unwilling to study. Maybe it was the artificial yellow light. Or the cold temperatures. Then another thought came to me. Maybe, since a lot of people travel over break, I could go somewhere away from home to a place where something, I didn’t know what, would actually drive me to study.
Finally, I had a Eureka moment in late November. Admittedly, it was heavily influenced by a trip to Florida two years ago. I even thought about and imagined the exact conditions I would study in. In my mind, I pictured a Florida beach town. I pictured two palm trees, one on my right and one on my left, with a warm, calm ocean breeze rushing through my face and hair. Behind me there would be a line of resort hotels for tourists stretching from horizon to horizon. In front of me would be the hypnotizing never-ending flow of ocean water crashing onto the sand in the form of whitewater waves. There would be a white little table, big enough for all my books but small enough to be cute. In this environment, I reasoned, I would actually “feel like” studying. I don’t why I came to that conclusion, but in my mind everything would work out perfectly in an environment like that.
Just think about it — what’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Florida? Sunshine, warm temperatures, happiness, bliss, right? If everything was so perfect in Florida, if all problems could be solved in this dream world of mine, why couldn’t I be able to study too?
Boy, was I wrong about all of that. The ski trip was my dad’s idea, and since the conditions in Wisconsin were similar to Illinois, it doesn’t count. I studied as I normally did, pushing myself to do it, and taking a lot of long breaks. But once I was in Florida, I decided to do what I felt like doing, and see what would happen. That didn’t work at all. Supposedly we are related, but my ideas of a good time often conflicted with those of my parents. Plus, that urge to do my homework never came. I guess my mind was playing tricks on me. Going to Florida was just an excuse to enjoy the weather and relax. When I thought of my “dreamland,” I thought of it right around Thanksgiving, when I felt stressed and longing for a break. That “dreamland” of mine wasn’t to study, but to get away from studying. Now it makes sense why thinking of that place of my mind brought out such good feelings, because I would enjoy being distracted from the things that made me stressed in the first place.
Florida was great — the temperatures were always in the 70s or 80s, and the ocean breeze was as romantic as ever. I spent a lot of time swimming in the ocean and in the pool or hot tub. Although the conditions weren’t exact to what I had imagined (I never studied directly under or next to two palm trees), they was pretty close. After all, the temperatures were in the seventies and eighties, and I was in a Florida beach town, for God’s sakes! I could blame my inability to “like” doing homework on the little intricacies of imperfection from this “dreamland” of mine, but I know that it is more that that. My mind simply doesn’t work like that. Oh well. The experiment failed, but I know a lot more about myself now than ever before, and after failures always come successes.
Before the experiment, I felt pessimistic about my surroundings, and thought that anywhere else was better than here but going to Florida and suffering from the exact same problems as here in a Chicago suburb, made me appreciate my surroundings all the more. In fact, I was more distracted, unable, and unwilling to do homework in Florida than in Chicago. I can say positively that I am blessed to be living in a cold dreary environment which is the perfect recipe for staying inside and studying for finals.