The Glorious First

There’s magic in the air on the first of the month. The first marks the beginning of my next AU course. The box of course materials has been sitting here for weeks, filling me with itchy anticipation. I’ve opened the box already—I’ve even peeked inside. But today—the glorious first—I ceremoniously peel the cellophane off the bundle of course materials. The fun begins.

It’s interesting to chart my motivation’s trajectory over the six months of the course contract.

The first month represents peak motivation. By the time the first day of the first month rolls around, I’m brimming with pent-up enthusiasm for the course. The other courses I’m in the middle of get pushed aside, like older siblings when the new baby comes along.

For the first day, I do all those necessary preliminary tasks. I peruse the course manual, scan through the textbooks, and send an e-mail to the tutor. I develop my study schedule for the course and set up my files in OneNote. This course, I think, will be my most perfectly executed course ever.

This enthusiasm carries on for at least a month. I devour the course readings. I glide through each unit so quickly I feel confident I’ll finish this course far ahead of schedule. I order the recommended supplementary materials from the library. I am mastering this topic. I begin slipping the course subject into casual conversations so I can show off the breadth of my knowledge. I live and breathe the course.

Towards the end of the second month, my halo slips a bit. For some reason, this often coincides with the first essay. The suggested study schedule invariably suggests that an essay will take no time at all, as though it were just a matter of tossing 2000 random words together. Maybe I’m overthinking it.

I struggle through each stage of the essay. Topic selection, thesis development, and research become instruments of torture. My enthusiasm for my other courses is renewed, while the new course founders. By the time I hand in my essay, I’ve lost weeks of study time. What did I like about this course again?

The first of the fourth month is the halfway point. Even using the worst-case scenario I should be at least halfway done the course work, but I’m straggling behind. I muster up a second wind of motivation. I read only the mandatory readings and skip the optionals. The supplementary texts I ordered—most still unread—go back to the library.

This course, which began as my darling baby, is now a troublesome teenager. I soldier on with grim determination. It’s far too late to begin anew—I must muddle through somehow.

The first of the final month casts a dark shadow. In my rose-hued study schedule, I was going to finish the course within five months and have this sixth month free. Instead, I will spend this month finishing the final coursework, dashing off an essay, and writing the final exam.

There is no room for procrastination. Study time expands while leisure time shrinks. I just have to make it through these final weeks. I schedule the exam for the 25th, focusing on how good it will feel to have the damned course over with.

After the exam the final few days of month six are blissful. Even though I’m in the middle of other courses, this one at least is finished. I made it. Not only that, but I managed five days at the end of the month in which I have one fewer course to work on. After the crush of the past few weeks, these few days feel paradisiacal.

With my abundant time, I gaze around and see an as-yet unopened box from AU. My next course begins soon, on the glorious first of the month.

Barbara Lehtiniemi is a writer, photographer, and AU student. She lives on a windswept rural road in Eastern Ontario.