I’ve wanted to write this post for a while now, but I think I wasn’t sure how to articulate what I really wanted to say about academia in relation to others. Academics are often portrayed as pretty individual, but in reality, academics can be just as competitive and troublesome as the olympic trials (okay, maybe not that competitive, but you get my point). Academics are a battle of the brains, a battle of stamina, and a battle of who can put in the most (or the least) amount of work, and manage to come out on top.
We live in a world where having a work ethic is ridiculed, and it is somehow cool to put in less work and get a high grade. “Oh, that A I got? I wrote the paper in 20 minutes.” “I only studied for an hour for that exam the morning of, and got a 98.” And those people putting in 110%? They’re overachievers, they’re try-hards, they’re “teacher’s pets.” Why do we care so much about how much or little other people are doing? Rather than focusing on everyone else’s academic journey, I think it’s important we focus on ourselves. Making sure our routine is working for us, making sure we’re making time for mental health, for physical health, and for our general well-being.
Now that I’m in law school, the tendency to compare is so much more prominent than it’s ever been in my life. I hear people comparing notes, subtly mentioning grades, likely hoping someone will say they did worse. I also hear people shaming those who have different study habits. And the people who study, essentially, 24-7 are called annoying, gunners, and, once again, overachievers. Now, I understand that a HUGE part of comparison derives from the curve situation. All of law school is on a curve, so no matter how great you feel you’re doing, what matters more is how everyone else did in relation to you. So, it’s natural to compare yourself, trying to see where you stand on what feels like an arbitrary line.
But similar to sayings like “keep my name out your mouth,” I kind of feel like we, the academics, need a phrase like “stay in your own academic lane, mine’s occupied.” I think friendly competition is healthy in some contexts, but I would like to see more academics striving to be the best academic they can be, without so much focus on what everyone else is doing. You want to be the best? Okay, do your strategy, and if you’re the best, that’ll be obvious. But if you being the best involves constantly ridiculing other people, you’re not the best. Or you are, but you’re an insecure version of the best. Here’s the thing… the more we criticize other people, but worse we look. It’s actually a lot more amazing when the humble people succeed. Actually, not even the humble people, but the people who just do their own thing, without having to measure up against everyone.
I don’t want to make this post too rant-y, but I will conclude by saying that it’s important to stay in your own academic lane. All academics work differently, think differently, and practice different habits, which is GOOD because that’s why academics are interesting. We can all bring a slightly different perspective or point of view. Revel in the difference.