Being ThisClose To Perfection

by Just Juan
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“The harder you work, the harder it is to surrender” – Vince Lombardi

The heat of the summer is here and, for me, it’s vacation season. For the next 9 weeks, I don’t want to have anything to do with school. I will NOT be opening up a single book for the purpose of learning…at least for the purpose of advancing myself academically. Of course, I’ll always open up my Holy Bible and my 30 Minute Meals cookbook to learn the Word and different cooking recipes, respectively. But before I check out for the summer, I wanted to write about something I nearly accomplished in the Spring 2014 semester: perfection.

For 15 weeks, I was pretty much the king of Project Management and EHS in Facility Management at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Every assignment that came up, every classroom discussion, every quiz…I scored perfect on it. I was pretty much on cruise control through the entire semester. For the first time in my academic career—high school or college—everything came easy to me. I was able to grasp the core concepts right off the bat and it showed in my assignments and in my discussion inputs and especially on the quizzes. I didn’t really notice that I had perfect marks across the board in both classes until Week 4. When I took a peek at my grades, I noticed that I was perfect all the way around. Usually, I lose a bid for perfection early in the game…most of the times, it’s in Week 1 when I’m in the dumb, new student phase but no later than Week 2. So the fact that I was a month in and still perfect motivated me to go wire-to-wire with 100s across the board. A lot of first time occurrences happened in this pursuit of perfection:

  •  The 14 weeks of perfection were the longest I’ve ever had a cumulative perfect grade average in a semester: the previous long was 2 weeks, which I accomplished on 6 occasions
  • The 100.0 grade average was the highest cumulative grade average I’ve ever had entering finals: the previous high was 96 (Spring 2006)
  • The twin 100.0 grade averages after 14 weeks were the highest grades ever for a graduate level class: the previous high was 94 in Introduction to Graduate Library Skills (Fall 2008) but that class was only 13 weeks
  • The twin 100.0 grade averages were the highest grades ever for a Discussion/Feedback section in any collegiate class: the previous high was 98, which I accomplished twice—in Public Speaking (Fall 2005) and Introduction to Geology (Spring 2006)
  • The twin 100.0 grade averages tied for the highest grade ever for a Quiz section in any collegiate class: the mark was also accomplished in Introduction to Computers (Spring 2004)

While I accomplished a lot to be proud of in the 2 courses, I felt like I let myself down on the Project Management final. I missed 1 question on the final and just like that, the quest for wire-to-wire perfection was gone. My heart hurt for a couple of weeks. Yeah, I still got an A in the class and yeah, I still came away with a 4.0 GPA in a graduate-level semester but I’ve done that before…it’s nothing new. Going perfect wire-to-wire…now that’s something to write home about. It takes so much effort, so much personal detail to your work, a lot of studying, and just a smudge of luck. Apparently, I didn’t have the luck part.

So, in the aftermath of the failed quest for perfection, I posted my frustration about it on social media and I got tore up about my stance on it. People who responded said I should be happy that I got the As in the classes and came away with the 4.0 GPA intact. I even had one person write that she was struggling to maintain a B average and here I was complaining about being a question away from perfection. They’re all entitled to their own says but they only saw it through THEIR eyes. Unfortunately for me, I’m the only person who sees it through MY eyes. And in my view, missing that one question on the final mattered. It meant everything. Those who know me well know the premium I put on education. I mean, people laughed at me when I made an attempt to retake Discrete Mathematics in Fall 2007 after making a 79 in the course during the Summer 2007 semester: that 79 was only worth 2 points on the GPA scale and I wanted at least 3. For these 2 classes specifically, I drastically altered my study habits to make a serious run at it. The last 11 weeks of the classes, I committed 25 hours per WEEK studying and getting better and more proficient at the coursework when in times past, you’d have a hard time getting me to commit 25 hours per SEMESTER studying to just maintain. Coming up so painfully close reminded me of the back-to-back years when I missed promotion to Staff Sergeant (Air Force rank E-5) by less than a point. So I get what everybody else thinks: hey, there is no difference between a 90 and a 100, it’s all an A at the end of the day. That’s true but in the Book of Juan, academic perfection is a major accomplishment and by missing the one question on one final, I wasted an opportunity to accomplish that feat. I’ll write this much though: I have an incredible amount of motivation heading into the Fall semester in a couple months. My course load is increasing to 3 classes, which is overload at the graduate level but I plan on putting in a virtuoso performance. Getting the As or the 4.0 GPAs don’t carry much weight with me these days: I’ve been there, I’ve done that, got the Dean’s List and President’s List nods. Getting 100s across the board in a single semester: that’s top-level stuff right there. This isn’t finished. Before I hang it up in my pursuit of degrees, I will have a perfect semester. Believe that.

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