The strangest part about this story is that I am a junior who has already completed his language requirement. I was drawn to this Latin course not only to understand what makes study of an ancient language different from study of a modern language, and linguistics, but also as an attempt to force myself out of bed. In the past, I have been known to, I am embarrassed to say, sleep through lectures at which attendance was not mandatory. I figured if I had a class that required attendance, like a language class, I would be able to get up earlier. The flaw in this plan wasn’t that I was wrong but rather that I was dreadfully, hopelessly right.
You see, I did get up every day in time for the class — except for the three or four times when I completely slept through it — but try as I might, I couldn’t get myself to go to bed any earlier than 2 a.m. or so. At first I thought this was just a bad habit I had and that if I corrected it and shifted my sleep schedule back two hours everything would be fine. I spent most of the semester promising myself I would get to bed by midnight and failing to do so because I am, whether by nature or nurture, simply more alert and capable of doing work at 11 p.m. Subsequently, I spent the entire semester exhausted.
I considered very seriously every day whether or not to drop the course, right up until the deadline a few weeks ago. It was not a formal requirement nor directly helpful in what I want to study, so why stay? In part it was love of Latin itself, in part it was love of my professor, but it was also hubris. I was too proud to admit that I had made the mistake of ignoring what for me is a basic truth about choosing classes: It is more important to pick good class times than good classes.
This may be an unpopular position, but for me, with a few exceptions, the best class I’ve ever taken isn’t objectively that much better than the worst class I’ve ever taken. Sure, I’ve enjoyed some classes much more than others, but how much I enjoy a class — and by extension a semester — is much more dependent on things in my life than it is on the class itself. If I am tired every day, then I’m going to hate my classes, no matter how good they are. I genuinely enjoy precept when I have time to do my readings, but when I don’t it is a boring and stressful ordeal. And, most importantly, this JP I’m writing wouldn’t be so nerve-wracking if I had more chunks of time during which I am fully cogent and don’t just want to curl up and fall asleep.
So please, learn from the mistakes I made. You can’t use an earlier class to force you to get up for a later class; you’ll just end up sleeping through both. Know yourself and when you best do work; sometimes you can change that, other times you can’t. And finally, pick your classes not only so that you like them all the first week but also so you like them all the 12th week. You are doing yourself no favor, mentally or academically, if you run out of energy and time and have neither the strength nor the will to do your work.
It would be absurd to say I regret everything I learned or the perspective I gained on language, and I would recommend any course Professor Baraz teaches in the afternoon. But in the words my Latin class taught me in more ways than one: “age quod agis” — loosely translated, “Whatever you do, do it well.”
Luke Massa is a philosophy major from Ridley Park, Pa. He can be reached at email@example.com.