There’s this Hispanic kid in my history class who is approximately the size of a linebacker on steroids. He’s an unassuming man – at least in his disposition – not in appearance obviously. He always wears a hoodie to class, which is a strange thing to see in the summer time. Then come fall and winter he shows up wearing short sleeves and shorts leading me to believe that either common sense isn’t really his thing or he just places a ridiculous value on being different. There are quite a few attention whores in college and contrary to popular belief most of them are male. You don’t see a lot of women wearing a t-shirt and shorts in the winter because it’s cold outside and most women, even if they are starved for attention, aren’t quite ready to get sick as a result of their desire to draw attention to themselves. This is a major difference between the male and female ego. Women are not nearly as willing to destroy their egos as men and even when they are they don’t do so in such a foolish way as men do. It’s a classic difference between the sexes. Men will do anything for attention even if it means sacrificing their physical well-being while women are far more practical in finding ways to have their needs met.
But back to this guy I call Julio who sits next to me in history class. Not a lot of people keep the hood on their hoodie up covering their head when their indoors, but Julio does. This taken together with his odd posture makes for quite the strange sight and all of this I’ve observed while sitting next to him, imagine what my teacher thinks. His posture is such that he looks like he’s been caught somewhere between that point where one has keeled over and died and that point where you find someone has fallen asleep in their Lay-z-Boy. He’s not quite to the point of drooling, but if he was to start I don’t think it would take anyone by surprise. His head is shaved such that it looks like he could join the military without requiring a haircut upon arrival at boot camp and his face is covered by a sparse stubble that reminds one of an Amazonian rain forest that hasn’t been completely wiped out by the lumber company just yet. In terms of his general demeanor, he never gets excited, but he’s not completely indifferent. He’s one of those people who, if he has something to say he’ll say it, but those moments oftentimes prove to be few and far between at least in the course of general discussion. Talk to him privately however and you’ll wonder why he doesn’t speak more often. I find myself listening to complete morons in the middle of class and thinking: “man, I really wish Julio would speak up and say whatever is on his mind,” but alas, he only seems to do this when our in-class conversation has hit such a low point that continued silence would prolong the agony to an unacceptable point.
One day I found myself unusually early for class and it was just me and Julio sitting in class. Two men sitting next to each other in the middle of a near-empty classroom not only looks odd, but feels equally as weird as well. I don’t do well with uncomfortable silences. I don’t think anyone does. So, naturally I did what any normal person would do and I tried to break the silence. We were a week away from our midterm in the class so I asked Julio if he was ready for the midterm.
“I guess,” he replied. “I try not to worry about that stuff.” I was taken aback by that last line.
“How do you not worry about it?” I asked. It seemed odd to me that one could remain perfectly calm about a major moment in the course of the semester. Julio merely shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ve got a plan,” he said. “The biggest mistakes kids make going into these tests is that they worry about it and then they wind up spending more time worrying about their problem than they do actually studying for the thing, which would solve the problem of them worrying in the first place.”
“What remarkably cogent analysis,” I thought. I immediately inquired as to his strategy and he laid it out for me in a very straightforward way.
“Well,” he said. “We’ve got one week before the midterm exam, so what I’m going to do is take Thursday (our next day of school) off and spend the next six days studying for the test.”
“How’s that going to work?” I asked. It seemed implausible to me that I could take a full day off from classes in the middle of the semester.
“You have to make the calculated decision that it’s better for you to live each day moderately preparing for the exam, staying in a nice day-to-day rhythm than it would be to try and cram that extra info into an already jam-packed schedule of classes. Whatever stuff you’ve got going on in your other classes that can wait until after the midterm. If you’re a good student missing one day of classes isn’t a big thing,” he explained.
I thought about what he said for some time and tried to work it out in my mind exactly how I could do something like that. I tried to think through all the details of how I would cover all of the stuff that I would miss during class after the midterm exam and wound up coming to the conclusion that regardless of the reasons for it, I just couldn’t knowingly take a day off from school. The psychological toll from not being in class as well as the idea that I was somehow deceiving my teachers by not being in class even if it was just one day was just too great of an obstacle for me to overcome. That may say something about my general approach to school in general that I can’t be absent even one day from class lest I feel like I’m doing something wrong or it may say something about my need to stay in a rhythm even if does run counter-factual to the circumstances that lie ahead. I’m not exactly sure which (if any) of those things is true, but I do know that the guy I call Julio was probably correct in his approach to the midterm exam and regardless of whether he gets a better grade than I do, he’ll be more likely to come out of the situation ahead because of his willingness to be flexible in that particular situation. Flexibility is one of the most useful of mans’ abilities. Without it he is obstinate to the point of weakness, but if one has it in too abundant supply he can find himself so disorganized that he will be unable to figure out where he was going to start with let alone where he needs to go in the future.