I’ve managed to get pretty far in life – 2 graduate degrees, sub-specialty medical training, generally functioning as an adult at most required times – while I’m pretty sure the inside of my head looks something like this:
I used to always drive my parents crazy when I was growing up because I did not appear to be really focused on what I was reading or studying, while also blaring rock music and hanging upside down off of the side of my bed (true story). Or the TV was on, or a zillion other supposed distractions were existing in my study environment.
Once, in college, my sister and I tried to study near each other – but I ended up crawling on top of the chair I was sitting in and crouching while reading, driving my much more structured sister NUTS. Needless to say, we did not study together after that.
When I was just starting medical school, one of the activities we participated in to help direct us in our future studies was undertake the Myers-Briggs personality test. This was actually very illuminating for me, because I realized there were structural reasons I studied the way that I did.
My personality type includes certain characteristics like needing to be alone around people, a hatred of monotony and routine, and difficulty with focusing on just one thing at times. This translates in to the fact that I currently have 12 internet browser tabs open with multiple simultaneous tasks going on, while also listening to an audiobook and doing laundry; it also explains my hatred of studying in libraries and tendency toward over-committing myself at times because there are so many things that I am interested in doing!
The good thing that seems to go along with this is that people with messy desks are more creative, apparently! So, if you ever see me watching TV while listening to music, drinking wine, and surrounded by piles of papers, I might actually be in one of my most productive moments!
I have not and never will understand Sarah’s ability to learn ANYTHING in her preferred study environments. I’m the type who must have complete silence, numbered to-do lists, and prioritized stacks of papers. If the fluorescent light above me is buzzing even slightly, you can forget it. None of that matters any more, because my brain is basically devoid of its ability to learn academic knowledge, as evidenced below.