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become a zen valedictorian


Recent activity

lavendrin 4 years ago

lavendrinNot quite there

I do get 4.0 semesters regularly, but I am no where near “zen.” This will be my last year of undergrad, so I am hoping that I can achieve this before grad school.

I have been thinking about trying to learn new studying techniques, but it is such a huge time investment. At the same time, I know that I already have developed many good habits (such as scheduling, developing a study plan, using flashcards, taking good notes). I am sure that I haven’t reached the “peak” of my studying ability, but I am also unsure whether is it possible given that I have so many other things going on that I can’t necessarily control.

This upcoming semester, I will be working 20 hours (on campus) in addition to taking 12-15 course credits, chipping away at my independent research project, and being a vice-pres of a club. Of course, on top of that, I want to get back into painting again, keep in touch with my friends and boyfriend, and start a post-grad job search. I am hoping that I can keep my work days at 12-13 hours (because I already know how terrible 15 hour ones are), but is that even possible? 16 months ago

lavendrinNeed to cut down on stress and learn to relax!

This is my next step. On the grind to zen scale, I was veered towards the grind last semester. Here are some concrete things I need to do:

1) figure out a new study plan for the next biology exam – what I did for my human evolution class obviously doesn’t work for this class

2) move closer to campus to cut down on commuting time – I often spend the ride home with a huge headache and half asleep, unable to get anything useful accomplished.. also it’s pretty much impossible to study on buses.. in summary, right now my schedule is 6am-7(8) pm most days and if I move on campus it will be 8am-5:30pm. That’s the difference b/w a 13-14 hour day and a 9.5 hour day (this is including my work and research obligations). This isn’t the industrial revolution, no body should have 14 hour days anymore (sorry lawyers/doctors).

3) Incorporate focused music ‘therapy’ sessions after I get home. I got this idea from my complimentary medicine seminar. I can’t relax when I get home and this technique lowers my stress a few points in only 15 minutes! 2 years ago

lavendrinThis semester was good, but next semester will be BETTER

I’ve achieved a lot this semester, but I don’t feel like I completed this goal. I’ve gotten straight As before in my community college too, but I still haven’t achieved the right balance between rest, work, and fun.

The most important thing I’m missing is REST. For some strange reason, I keep getting into obligations and I never feel like I put time away just to do something for fun and not for a project. I wish I had time to do something like take a walk after dinner and listen to a book on CD. Or, bike to the picnic tables in the prairie and have lunch there. Or, do random art journaling or collages. Or, go to the library or coffee and shop and just read, instead of always working.

Another thing I’m a little worried about is my ‘impressiveness’. I know it’s my first semester at a university and I haven’t had many resources available to me before, but right now, I’m not very distinguishable from my classmates. It’s not that I want to be ‘batter’ than everyone, it’s just that I was under the impression that I was doing something ‘different’, and I’ve come to realize that I am just like everybody else. I need to figure out how to best use the talents I have to become more distinguished, rather than ‘the girl who always shows up at department gatherings and has nothing interesting to say about herself.’ 2 years ago

lavendrinHighest grade in my anthro class

How about that? I never stressed out about the grade, never pulled all nighters and most importantly sat in peace as classmates around me clamored to study right before the final exam. That is ZEN right there! 2 years ago

lavendrinvisiting this site almost daily =/= zen

I realized that visiting this site frequently is time-draining and very unzen. It’s kind of like when I realized my internship search was a time drain. Sure, it’s important and it’s part of my goals, but I was forgetting everything else that I needed to get done and spent all my time wandering about the internet looking for anything internship-related to search. So new rule: 43things is reserved for Sundays. Sunday is the delegated day for the Sunday Ritual anyway, so it would only make sense to re-examine my goals on this day.

On the other hand, most of my internship search activities have been delegated to Saturday mornings as part of a Saturday Morning Project (basically trying to get into my field somehow). I do schedule time to complete internship applications outside of Saturdays, but only after my other scheduled activities, and it’s the SEARCH that was most draining. I can search for jobs and internships forever.. 2 years ago

lavendrinNo reply for my request..

Unfortunately the prof I emailed did not reply to my email. I guess it would be difficult to switch around my schedule to put in the class anyway (my calc 3 class discussion overlaps with it and there is only one section for that good prof). I signed up for global health instead and I’m fine with it. I do crave upper-level coursework, but I’m not going to fight when there is obviously nothing I can do about the system here (the course hasn’t been offered for 3 yrs and there are only 20 spots??). The global health class will probably also expose me to readings and work in the field and also I will get to know at least one faculty member in the public health department that way. Overall, it is in accordance to the zen val philosophy. 2 years ago

lavendrinI've decided on my final schedule

But there is only one problem.. the class I really really want is full! I decided on the 1st 3 courses I listed previously, plus Culture & Medicine. The last one is full. I’ve emailed the prof, but after talking to some TAs, I found out that this would be the perfect class for me. I was advised against Qualitative Techniques until I took a couple medical anthro or public health classes to make it more useful. Additionally, I plan to make it honors by doing some independent-study-type work on the side (suggested by the TAs). I’m thinking of reading a handful of medical ethnographies to get better acquainted with the field. But what about the fact that it’s full??? Argh. 2 years ago

lavendrinI've had the most relaxing past week!

My final exam studying schedule is in full swing, yet I find myself reading a lot, sitting around thinking, and even (gasp!) watching a bit of TV. This is the ultimate indication of being a zen-valedictorian. Go me. Now, to make sure it doesn’t spiral down to laziness… 2 years ago

lavendrinIt is time to pick classes for the next semester!

I’ve been very busy trying to regain zen-momentum in my calculus 2 class. But after a hard day’s work, I will reward myself by writing about what I’m thinking about for my new schedule and then doing an hour of reading. I’ve already technically registered for classes, but I’m still mauling over these classes:

1) Calculus 3 (registered and not likely to change)
2) Writing in the Major (registered and not likely to change)
3) Bio 100 (registered and not likely to change)
4) Qualitative Data Collection (registered and on the chopping block)
5) Honors Seminar about Alternative Med (registered and on the chopping block)
6) Female Biology (registered and on the chopping block)
7) Culture & Medicine (not registered b/c class full)
8) Global Health (not registered)

I’ve been composing resumes recently and I’m always stumped as to what to put in the “Relevant Courses” section. The truth is that I’m a rising Junior and I don’t have upper level courses, except for one in neuroscience, which has nothing to do with my aspirations in public health.

Right now I’m registered for 18 credits.. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to take for my 4th class, so I kind of just took everything. I know for sure that I’m taking the math b/c I’m a math minor, the writing class b/c I really want it out of the way, and the bio class for the same reason. As for the 4th class I’m not sure. I wanted to take female bio because it would finish off the physical anthro requirement for my major, but I just took a physical anthro class this semester and I’m not sure if I will burn myself out by taking 2 more sciencey classes next semester. I’m not sure about the qualitative data because I don’t know who the instructor will be yet (it’s a graduate level course so I would want a fair prof). Culture & med would’ve been perfect except that the class is full and I don’t think that anybody will drop it (every body in it is a senior in the honors college and probably an anthro major just like me). Global health I’m not sure about because registration for that dept isn’t open yet, so it may get filled up.. plus it’s a 100-level course, so it’s not like I can boast about it on my resume. By the time I graduate, I will be able to list upper-level statistics, public health, and hopefully medical anthro courses. But right now, I have nothing.. 2 years ago

lavendrinMore good news

I got a 97% on my calc 2 midterm. 97!! I NEVER got grades like that in math before. The average was around the C-range and I was completely comfortable with the test. In fact, I thought I understudied, but I worried too much. Next time, I will study a max of 4 hours, spread out over a week. I’m doing all of the right things. 2 years ago


I tied with another student in setting the curve for my human evo class. It was the best feeling ever. I might need some work making my studying more of a “accomplished zen” than an “accomplished grind” flavor, but I didn’t have any all nighters.. I wasn’t incredibly worried that I didn’t study enough.. and I knew what I was doing on the exam. I hope it’s the same story with my calc 2 exam :). 2 years ago

lavendrinI had the perfect zen valedictorian day on friday...

I got all of the work done than I needed to do.. put in a couple of hours for reading about my research.. and left the library before 5! :) I think that I’m finally getting the scheduling down. Although, next week it will be skewed because I have to add an extra 10 hours to study for my human evo exam. But I thought of a new strategy for studying, so maybe I won’t have to stay so long. 2 years ago

lavendrinHere are the concrete mini-goals I want to accomplish to become a zen valedictorian

Ideally, I hope to reach this goal before I finish my bachelor’s degree in 2014. But I guess we’ll see.

1. Underschedule (minimize stress, which is too many obligations)
a. have allotted time for ‘randomness’, with no activities or classes scheduled in
b. be efficient at studying, avoid working harder/longer, but focus on hard work
2. Innovate
Accomplish impressive things through sheer ambition and clever use of available resources.
3. Focus
Work on a limited amount of areas and become exceptional at them.

I think that in 2011, I really worked on 3, which produced good results. However, I’m not doing so hot on 1 and 2. I’m hoping a change of atmosphere will help with these.

The problem I keep running into for 1 is that I’m constantly trying to come up with the right block schedule, which is stressful, and then when classwork fluctuates and it gets disrupted, I have to make exceptions and tweaks to my schedule, which is even more stressful and time consuming. For next semester, I think that I will not have a fixed schedule (except for regular assignments or readings), instead I will assign my work to lots of time on Sunday before the week begins (or something like that). It would allow for more flexibility and hopefully less stress. I also need to try to be more stern with myself and push through those afternoon studying hours that I got in the habit of putting off until later at night.

For 2, I think it would be sufficient to work on getting an internship for the summer and working on studying abroad for next spring. I’m not too sure what else is out there since I haven’t been a student on campus yet. I can’t really think of anything right now that I could make impressive by ‘pumping ambition’ into it.

As a continuation of 3, I want to start reading more papers in my field (and probably around my field for diversity). I will start with the ones I will browse when I email profs asking about internship opportunities. 2 years ago


I’m worried that my plans to have school in the morning will now backfire because of the commute. I will have to get up at 5am.. catch a bus at 6.. get on the train, arrive at 7 in Chicago, commute to class at 8. But what’s the alternative? All classes are done before 3-4pm at this school, so it would be hard to schedule classes for later in the day. Nothing is going as I planned. I don’t feel very ‘zen’ anymore. It’s going to be a stressful semester and I wish it didn’t have to be this way. I just don’t see a way out. 3 years ago

lavendrinBeen struggling with this one

It’s so hard to remain positive about this goal, when I become a “grind” simply out of boredom for weeks on end. At least I’m not “failed” I guess lol.

For next semester, I registered for only 3 courses (again). No art. I feel weird taking an art course because it would be so expensive at my new college. I just can’t disassociate the cost and the fact that I don’t “need” an art course. I wish I could take one though. Anyway, my schedule looks very much zen. I’m taking: Russian 104 (that’s what I tested into so I want to finish my requirement asap), Human Evolution (took me 5 hours to get registered for the right section, no kidding), and Calc 2 (I could’ve taken Calc 3, but I chickened out because I didn’t want to take a lunge forward like I did in high school with maths). Monday is my easy day with only one class. Wednesday is my harder day with a Human Evo lab until 2. But all other days I get out at or before 12pm. I’m considering taking a Writing Culture class, since it’s required for my major (and it’s supposed to be a BS class), but there is only one section and it would make me go back to class 3-4pm every day. It’s very anti-zen. Plus, I think I have room in my schedule plan to take it next year. I’m just worried that it either won’t be offered every semester or my study abroad will mess with my courses. 3 years ago

lavendrinNext semester..

I will strictly have school in the morning and work (if I do) at night. It’s impossible to reach this goal if my prime hours are overtaken by senseless work. 3 years ago

lavendrinAcademically, yes, but not otherwise..

I think this goal would be easier to accomplish once I transfer. Technically, it’s done academically. I can accomplish things within a schedule if I want. BUT. If I schedule myself free time, I get depressed, since I literally have nothing to do. So I just stay working until 6/7pm, then read/cook after that, and chat with my boyf or something. When I transfer, I hope to do a 7am-2pm or 8am-3pm schedule for the weekdays. Another reason my schedule is skewed is because I don’t have school Fridays (I like it that way), and sometimes I have work in the morning that eats up my time. Once I transfer, I’ll probably need to go to school M-F, and I’ll need to be careful to not get burnt out by late nights studying.

Oh, and since my last frenzied comment, I’ve got my studying/ art making under control. There’s always that period of adjustment when I think I’m going to DIE, but it never happens (anymore). I have the tools and perseverance to push myself through. I can’t remember the last time I got burnt out. Well I can… high school senior year. That’s when everything went to hell. But I’m better now! :)

In summary, to get this goal done, I need to actually have interesting things to do once I get done with my schedule. Really, this goal should read “be an interesting and successful student with minimal stress,” but I know that’s what I mean when I say zen valedictorian. 3 years ago

lavendrinUnexpected cancelled class and light schedule

So this last semester at my local CC is unexpectedly light because one of my classes got dropped… I assumed that this will make for an easy semester, since I only have 3 academic courses and one painting course.. I’m realizing, after the first week, that this may not be the case.

First off, I loathe the science course that I took to satisfy my gen ed (prairie ecology). I can’t change into another course, and honestly I think I would’ve been better off with Chemistry, which I’m no good at, but would be more useful. I could care less about ID’ing plants or animals, which for some reason I didn’t know before I actually got outside and did a plant ID. I like looking at pretty prairies, but evidently can care less about what the stupid plants are. UGH.

Secondly, my into to neuroscience class is pack full of things I don’t understand. It doesn’t have a pre-requisite of chemistry, but I certainly wish it did… second day of class, I was completely lost!

Finally, I had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing a night class, because I couldn’t fit anything else in after one of my classes was cancelled and I dropped out of a second class. I am NO GOOD at night. My attention span drops, I’m falling asleep, I can’t make any intelligent connections, I’m hungry, and I don’t care about anything. I can’t switch to anything else, and I can’t drop it because I need it for my major. What a mistake!

As a final blow to me, the prof I took that never offered homework before, now has a required log in which I have to spend 3 hours doing something art-related. I was hoping to condense my art-making to those 8 hours a week! But no….

Is this schedule really in accordance to the zen philosophy? I don’t know… unless I can get an iron grip on my classes pretty soon, this might be my hardest semester. 3 years ago

lavendrin2 semesters down

My first two semesters at my local community college were rather unpleasant, but in terms of the zen valedictorian philosophy, I’ve been doing a lot better than before. By eliminating extra-curriculars (I did so many in high school, it’s not worth listing out), I’ve let myself have time to do my school work, keep up with the stress of a part-time job, and dig into subjects that interest me. Now this is recent, but I’ve even started to read again! It’s mostly listening to CDs, but a whole lot better than nothing at all. I’ve all but stopped reading for pleasure in high school. I just finished Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond, which means I finally have something anthropological to maul over and talk to my prof about.

In the summer, I’m taking it easy. This is good because I’m prone to burning out and I need time to decompress. Also, I’ve been getting anywhere from 5-10 additional hours at work since it’s busier in the summer, so having just one class balances it out. It’s definitely a drag in class, but some of the things I’m learning could be useful for my major.

This coming fall, I’ve scheduled myself for 5 classes. I’m worried about how this will pan out, since in my Freshman year, I took 5 each semester too, but one was always an online 8-week (relatively easy) English course. Right now, I’m putting my Ethics course on the line, where if I’m too overwhelmed, I can drop it. The biggest problem with my schedule is that I decided to take a painting class, which is not added stress or homework, but a huge time commitment, as studio courses take up 3 hour blocks. Theoretically, I have 4 academic courses with homework, but which the amount of time I’ll be spending at the studio, and working my job, I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time for school work and relaxation. While this studio course is a bit of a problem, I maintain my belief that I’ve been miserable all of the semesters that I’ve tried to push art out of my life, and I will continue to take art courses throughout my academic career. Besides, it’s one of the courses I’m most excited about, because I’ll be in the building with yummy Caramel Macchiatos, bagels, and cinnamon twists.. and my teacher is a quirky Italian lady ;).

Overall, I’m taking courses I want to take, my grades are the highest they’ve ever been, I’m genuinely interested in anthropology and am reading material about things that interest me. I think the things I need to work on right now are:
- participate in a meaningful extracurricular/volunteer work (I’ve already began researching these opportunities at my transfer colleges)
- become extremely efficient (find better ways of doing things)
- spend more time becoming a star in my favorite courses (I was great in my anthropology class, but I wish I spent more time digging deeper)
- cut down on stress, pay attention to my health, and live simpler (this is a new idea that I’m still mauling over in my head) 3 years ago

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