At 18, I was still in community college back in Frederick, MD, and had to pick one more elective to ensure that I’d have a 15-credit schedule that semester. I begrudgingly picked “Sociology 101” because it was the only class that sounded remotely interesting. The class was twice a week and taught by Dr. Schultz.
I attended the first day with an indifferent attitude; I had no intention of immersing myself. After all, this class was just to get the credits. Truth be told, my ignorant mind didn’t even know what sociology was at that time. As soon as Dr. Schultz opened her mouth to speak, I knew she was the kind of woman I wanted to listen to. I couldn’t have asked for a better professor. In fact, she was the only academic figure that made an impact on me.
I didn’t realize how uneducated I was until that point. It’s frightening how clueless I was. The important thing she taught me was the concept of “claiming your education.” This is a quote by Adrienne Rich, introduced during a Women’s Studies’ course I was taking. I’d never heard of that concept before, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. You mustn’t wait to have your education handed to you. It’s something that you have to actively pursue. You don’t go to college to receive an education—you go to college to claim one. Dr. Schultz was very adamant that we all claim an education.
The quote hit me hard. I’ve recently come to terms with the fact that I am, and always have been, a lazy scholar. All throughout middle and high school, I expected everything to be dropped onto my lap. If I didn’t learn something through mandated schooling, then I’d never learn it. I’ve always made excuses for myself: if I wasn’t doing well in math, it was because the teacher wasn’t adequate in explaining the material. It didn’t occur to me that I could use outside resources to help me when stuck. There are many programs I want to learn how to use, but keep telling myself “I’ll wait until I learn to use them in this course.” I could search for this information on my own, but it’s instilled in my brain that I can’t. Someone has to hold my hand until I’m confident enough.
I don’t take any initiative. I’ll stare at something and make up a reason why I can’t do it, effectively convincing myself that I have all the time in the world when in reality I don’t. I need to motivate myself outside of the classroom. I made it a goal to teach myself how to read Japanese, and I’ve taken the time to research what resources are helpful. I’m keeping with it, and have learned a lot. Through perusing online forums and asking around on the Internet, I’ve been teaching myself how to code so I have a head start before classes pick back up.
It’s hard to find the motivation to do something, but I always come back to that quote. I’ll forever associate that quote to Dr. Schultz as opposed to Adrienne Rich, as she’s the one who inspired me to try and do better. I’d like to think it’s working.
—Follow Emma Kidwell on Twitter: @EmmaKidwell