Think back for a minute. Think back to, say, junior high, and try to remember what horrible music you listened to.
When I think back to junior high, my cd player was usually blaring some pretty awful nu-metal like Nine Inch Nails and KoRn. It took me a while to discover real death and black metal, and then only later in college to appreciate happier prog/power metal. In recent years, I have tried to listen to bands such as Slipknot again, and while I somehow remember an embarrassing amount of lyrics, and there’s plenty of nostalgia value, I just can’t enjoy it like I once did. Maybe it’s because I don’t wear ridiculous outfits like the one at right anymore. A friend’s dad said those pants made it look like I’d gotten into a fight with a lawn mower. And lost.
Or maybe, if I had remained completely ignorant of all higher metal music, I might still be derping out to Linkin Park, oblivious to better quality music out there. But when we learn something, new connections are made between our neurons, or brain cells. As a result, a person can’t ever truly remember what it was like to not know something. You’ve learned it. The fundamental structure of your brain has changed as a result of your learning, and you can’t willfully undo that.
As a grad student, I apparently couldn’t willfully trick myself into pretending that I was an undergraduate in the classes I had to take last semester. I already got into grad school – the best grad school – so my grades don’t matter anymore. Only my research does. No one is ever (probably) going to look at my transcript again.
So, when it came time to study for midterms or practice a presentation for these classes, I just couldn’t make myself care to the degree that all the undergraduate around me did. I flat out couldn’t do it. I know my grades are basically my lowest priority now, and so I just couldn’t force myself back into that No-Nonsense-Ultra-Focus that had come so easily as an undergraduate.
And before you think it, I’m not just getting old, either. My ability to focus is extremely situationally-dependent, because if I’m learning something that is relevant to my research, I have my Ultra Focus again. So, undergraduate classes are apparently the KoRn of graduate school: I enjoyed them once, and they seemed really important at the time, but grad school is epic Dragonforce. Grad school is Dream Theater. It is Rhapsody of Fire, who do admittedly have some pretty cheesy tracks, but the song Dawn of Victory still gets me as pumped up for tests now as it did as an undergraduate. You can’t listen to that song and not get exhilarated. Even the live version; they’re that good. You can bet serious money I will be playing Dawn of Victory before my Qualifying Exam and my Dissertation Defense. And victory will be had \m/