Recently I’ve had some surprises. Some really pleasant surprises. Some very much expected surprises. How can an expected surprise be a surprise, you ask? Easily. Before reveailing my surprises let’s just talk about how surprising school sometimes is. As many of the students reading will know, surprises can happen a lot throughout the school year. Perhaps you were surprised you got an “A” on a test. Perhaps you were surprised you got an “F.” You might have been surprised to see that photo of you coming off of the new water slide on the front page of the student paper. Perhaps you are surprised that your roommate isn’t all that weird, after all. Perhaps you were surprised by how easy a class was, or how hard. You might even have been surprised that you like a subject you always thought you hated. Worst of all, you might have finally accepted the fact that you were meant to be a teacher: SURPRISE!
The expected surprise is something all together different. It takes a long time to incubate. The expected surprise is the long-term project you work on forever, hand in, and wait… wait…wait… to hear about about. You wait so long to hear back that you kind of forget that you were even waiting… and then you hear back: SURPRISE! It’s not “technically” a surprise… but it feels like one — especially when the outcome is positive. A while ago I was contacted about publishing one of the posts from my personal blog in a magazine for a university in another country. I said yes. Then I forgot about it. This week I was treated to a foreign publication of my words. That was a pleasant surprise. Similarly, I’ve been working for a good deal of time on my dissertation proposal. Just recently I heard back that it was good to go and I could proceed in setting up a date for a defense. Another pleasant surprise.
Long projects are strange creatures. It’s easy to see why video games and sporting events and television take up so much of our attention — they offer instantaneous reward. As the end of the semester approaches, and the deadline for final drafts of papers and presentations looms over your heads, consider starting now. Yes, the surprise of your grade, of that gratifying moment you turn it in is very far off now… but knowing that you took the time, did your best, and were able to put it on the back burner for a while allows you to experience the surprise of a “job well done” and a pat on the back later. You’re giving yourself the opportunity to relax a little before reaping the rewards you so rightly deserve. Put a little surprise back in your life. Start and finish early. Work hard often. Relax when done. Be surprised.