It’s not every day that you make the decision to attempt a feat few others have succeeded at. Studying a non-Romance language, for example. I have spent the last couple of weeks making my way through the enjoyable experience that is A. J. Jacobs’ satirically titled “The Know-It-All: One Man’s Humble Quest to Become the Smartest Person in the World.” It’s an awesome story chronicling one man’s attempt to read the entire Encyclopædia Britannica over the course of a year in addition to participating in a number of other activities meant to boost his intelligence. I’ll write about the book in more depth later, but that’s not the focus today. Today, the focus is on aspirations.
Much like the author, I, too, have chosen to embark on the quest for greater knowledge, a quest that has already put back in the spotlight my horrendous study habits of the past. I have three big exams I want to take this year, and I am about halfway prepared for all of them. I have to keep forcing myself to manage my free time better in order to break the awful habit of procrastination. I tell myself constantly, This time will be different. You’re doing the gym thing already and that was a tough, too. Studying? Pft. You LOVE to study, remember?
The great thing is I do LOVE to study! I AM remembering. I’m curious about so many things in the world. I’m upset when I feel like someone one-ups me in an intelligent conversation or any conversation, for that matter. I have to restrain myself from being a patronizing jerk every time someone posts a ridiculous fact in their Facebook feed. I participated in trivia bowl contests in middle and high school. I have a hard time stopping myself from stating every piece of information I know about something every time my wife asks me to help her pronounce some terribly difficult English vocabulary. I like to watch documentaries in Korean even though I can only pick up 80% or so of what’s being said. I love absorbing every bit of information in the world around me. Just check out the load of books I bought last week to help with my studying progression (see top of page).
This is a big realization for me. Somewhere along the line, I lost my compulsive love of knowledge. I think it was after the second time my family moved. I ended up having to change schools the summer before my junior year. I moved away from a place where respect for learning was the focus of my entire education. I will never forget the headmaster calling me into his office because I failed to complete an extra credit assignment even though I was already getting an “A” in the class. I loved it. I thrived on the high expectations. Then came the move to Eugene. I went from a college preparatory school into an environment where learning played second-fiddle to how well you can insult your peers. What a load of crap. That is what I spent my junior and senior years at high school perfecting: how to be snoody. What a waste! I suppose that didn’t stop me from making Honor Roll and going to a good university, but it is a bit upsetting when I think about it. The biggest loss of all was my love of learning. Thanks for nothing, high school.
Years later, I have finally started to recover that passion. I feel like I’ve stumbled upon some great secret, some forgotten technique hidden in my mind. It’s like I’m Ryu and I just relearned how to throw a hadoken. Speaking of which, I still know how to speak Japanese! Most people I know just assume I can speak Japanese given how much I used to rock it while in school, but since coming here I’ve had few chances to practice it. As such, I’ve been very concerned with taking the Japanese Language Proficiency Test. What if I forgot everything? What if Korean crept into my brain and smothered all of my Japanese while I was sleeping? Fortunately for my Japanese, that is not the case. The other day, I was flipping through the channels and came upon a random Japanese movie. A smile slowly crept across my face as I came to the realization that I knew everything they were saying! This pretty much sums up my feeling at the time:
God, it feels good. My newest quest? The Graduate Record Examinations, or as it’s more commonly known, the GRE. I read about a hundred pages of the official guidebook so far, and hopefully I will be ready to take it in February or March. I LOVE taking tests. What is wrong with me? Answer: absolutely nothing! Ha!
I feel like there are so many different things I want to do, so many chances I have yet to take and so many places yet unvisited. I look at the future with hope for all I seek to accomplish and with fear of the unknown obstacles certain to plague my path, but most of all with excitement. I cannot wait to jump into the future, to plunge myself headfirst into battle, love my shield and courage my burning brand, overcoming my fears with each swing of my fiery blade.
I’ll end with this:
We are the only creatures on this planet that spend our days living in regret; regret for past actions, regret for missed opportunities, regret for time wasted. Any time you spend regretting things neither your nor anyone can change is time that could be better spent. Look around you. The world is a wonderful place full of life and beauty. Whenever you feel yourself start to regret something, stop and take a deep breath and take some time to really think about the wonderful things in your life. Chances are there are plenty.