Novel Completion Queries, Day Five

Is the novel finished? NO

Today’s question: What year of your education do you remember as being your best — “best” for whatever metric you like (most enjoyable, most academically successful, most memorable, etc, or any combination). Choose any year between kindergarten and the completion of your formal education.

My answer: I’d say it was my third year in college. I was well-established at school (i.e., I knew people and people knew me), I had friends I really enjoyed being with, I was editor-in-chief of the newspaper, which was a job I really enjoyed, and I was focused on being there, rather than having to think about what was going to happen next, which is to say, graduation and getting a job and so on. I had a really good time of it, I have to say.


63 Comments on “Novel Completion Queries, Day Five”

  1. My last year of college. I was taking 21 units, making straight A’s, dating a woman who was drop dead gorgeous and had a great circle of friends.

  2. Last year of college. I’d arranged my core and credits so that it was basically PARTY TIME! – and was then informed that I was three credits short of matriculating on time…wow, what a scramble. I arranged for an independent study (Shakespeare – Hamlet to be precise) and accepted an offer to act in a theater student’s final thesis play (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) if the department agreed to give me two credits.
    Deals done, I had the busiest and most fun-filled semester of my college career.

  3. Probably senior year of college. Teaching classes for the physics dept, running what we called a computer center in the 1960s, private office, etc

  4. First grade.

    It was full speed ahead, there were no limits on what I could accomplish, and I had the all the support and encouragement that I needed from my family.

  5. Calendar year 2009, spanning the second half of my 5th year and the first half of my 6th year of grad school. Met and married my wife, I got to learn how to use a lathe and end mill in the course of fabricating my own reactor components, and the experiments for my research finally gained traction and turned out useful data.

  6. Junior year of college for basically the same reasons as Scalzi. I was taking classes I liked, living with all of my friends, and not freaking out about the future.

  7. For me it was Senior Year of college, for actually similar reasons as stated by JS. I actually had my job already assured, I had passed a pretty difficult challenge the summer before that was necessary for said job and which gave me a lot of confidence about my ability to be successful, I had classes that I really enjoyed in Marketing (and even an elective of wine tasting and pairing), and I had good friends to share the experience with. It just all came together for a well rounded and successful last year.

  8. It was probably my sophomore year of college. I had a dorm room to myself, but had a hallway full of friends who hadn’t yet graduated. (Living for four years in a four-class dorm, I went from the youngster among the stoned remnants of the 60’s to the old lady among short-haired clean-cut football fans.) I’d largely recovered from a devastating crush on the fellow who ended up with one of my freshman roommates. I’d yielded to my impractical interest in English and American Literature and could spend many hours sitting on my bed reading good books, with my door open to maintain contact with folks passing by. And while I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time, I had the benign Palo Alto, CA weather as a backdrop.

  9. For me it was my second last year of University. I failed my final year Computer Engineering project. Hard. It taught me so many valuable lessons about how to manage my time and to be honest as well as caring to myself. I repeated that project and got the best marks in the department the following year.

  10. I think senior year in high school, not so much for the thing itself, but I was one of those smart kids who found school more annoying than interesting and ended up deciding — from pretty much 8th grade through junior year — to be passive aggressive about it. With predictable academic results. Then, that summer, I had an revelation that if I (a) read the books assigned, (b) did the homework assignments (and turned them in), and (c) stopped trying to be as moody as possible at school, things would be easier. Went from a 2.5 to a 4.0, had a much easier time socially (although I was never in any particular in-crowd) and generally had a nice year. Better still, since I am a morning person, I was able to arrange my senior year schedule such that I was done by 1 every day senior year.

    I went on to do other fancy-pants sorts of education — Cal, U Chicago — but that was the year I turned my life around from cliched smart failure to reasonable successful normal person.

  11. There was one glorious semester at UIUC my junior year, where all of my classes were MWF only, and so I had no need to wake up early on Tuesdays or Thursdays. This was particularly satisfying because the local goth/industrial club night (C Street represent!) was on Monday night, and so I never had to worry about making it to class the next day.

  12. Hmm. “Best” is generally defined in my head as “most enjoyable,” and there wasn’t an awful lot that I enjoyed about the educational process. I was a bit of a square peg that was stuffed willy-nilly into holes that never fit me, so I can’t say I really enjoyed any part of the process.

    If I reframe “best” in my mind to “most gratifying to have successfully survived,” I’d probably pick my senior year in college. I was a non-traditional student, having gone back to school in my 40s to finish the degree I abandoned in my younger and more foolish days, and I was grimly slogging through classes while working fulltime, being a partner to my spouse, parenting teenagers, and serving as legal guardian of an aging parent dying of dementia.

    That fall, the first semester of my senior year, I was carrying 16 credits including my capstone course, and the final few weeks of the semester included both being hired for my dream job, a highly demanding and complex position to which I had always aspired, and the final hospitalization and death of my aging parent. Despite both events, I completed the semester with my 4.0 GPA intact, and graduated summa cum laude the following May.

    Since surviving that year, I’ve been convinced that I can handle damned near anything life hands me. And as an added bonus, it provided ample ammunition in the successful battle to convince my own offspring that they would be far, FAR better off finishing their degrees in their 20s rather than waiting as long as I did.

    So while it was not at all enjoyable, in terms of being life-altering, that year definitely qualifies as the best.

  13. Most enjoyable? Junior year of college- interesting classes, great group of friends, great play in the drama society, really good relationship at the time. All good things.

  14. Calendar year 2014. I had two separate beekeeping classes with 17 total sessions, plus a lot of reading, plus my own first beehives to learn from. (The classes had schedules, and that’s formal enough for me.)

  15. 11th grade. Memorable because an A/C separation and months of having my right arm in a sling is not easy to forget. Also, there was the whole being wanted high of the deluge of college mail.

    Plus, it was the one year I qualified for the USAMO. (I stupidly stayed up nearly all night before the AIME in 12th grade finishing a paper for some class I can’t even remember now)

  16. My second year of college, 1989-90, my first year I pretty much exploded at Fort Wayne Bible College with a .5 gpa on a 4 point scale, they understandably didn’t want me to return and I can’t really blame them. My second year of college was at Oakland City college in southern Indiana and made the deans list twice and graduated with a 3.28. The difference? Switched majors from Music education to HVA/CR. Just a matter of learning what your good at doing.

  17. Fifth year of college (out of 6; it was an expensive hobby). I was deep in my senior level and capstone classes, mentored by some amazing teachers, and late one night I realized that I had learned how to learn. I read stories about Zen practitioners who reach a state of satori, and I suspect the experience is similar.

  18. Third year of university. Yes, the higher level classes was more interesting, had a live-in girl friend who was a British beauty (who went her own way later), but most important I was coming off a one year hiatus. I had to go to work (at a full service gas station – yes I’m that old!) so I could afford two more years. And I got back. THAT made it the best year.

  19. Fourth year of university. I’d finally settled on what I wanted to do (after my summer job clarified what I did NOT want to do) as a career, liked my classes, and surrounded by a good group of people.

  20. 8th grade in junior high (a.k.a. middle school) – I had such a world-ending crush on a girl I couldn’t even speak to her. I was in a group of students that was categorized as advanced and were given classes together where we would mutiny and get away with it. We had a radical history teacher who organized a school “Ecology Fair” (this was the 70s). And my close friends and I would watch Sesame Street after school because we thought Kermit and Grover were cool.

  21. Senior year of high school for me.
    It was the 1st year my school had a tennis team. Being a smallish guy, it was the first sport I could try out for and actually succeed! (Football had not been a good idea in my sophomore year.) I also loved playing both tuba and drums in the band, being on the “1st string” of the debate team, and driving to school in my first car (loved that Dodge Dart). And most importantly, there was nothing I couldn’t achieve…ahhh…the innocence of youth.

  22. First year of university. Moved out from my parents’ place, had brilliant classes and great co-students in my dorm – great for studying together, and for not studying together. I was doing something I enjoyed 24/7. Exhilarating. [The remaining three years were great too, but no longer a surprise.]

  23. Fourth grade. Mrs. A was the best. She introduced us to different bases and fractions and coordinate geometry and sentence diagramming… and fantasy (via The Blue Sword) and all sorts of wonderful things. I have never learned so much in such a short amount of time or so painlessly since. I wonder what my life could have been if every teacher had been like Mrs. A. The world would certainly be a better place.

  24. Freshman year college. I made a conscious decision not to be shy any longer. I “put myself out there” and had a great time! I made friends quickly, had fun, and it didn’t hurt that my Chemistry textbook was the exact same one I used when I was a high school sophomore.

  25. I’m afraid I have to say not one… Bullied From start to finish and whilst I pushed through uni as well (needed it for the career I wanted) never really felt as though I fitted in…

  26. Third grade. Mrs Emory was a wonderful teacher. She instilled in me my love of reading that’s last the rest of my life.

  27. Freshman year of college. It pretty much rocked. I left high school (largely a horrorshow for me) behind. I met new people. I made new friends, some of whom remain my friends today. We had lots of fun. I fell in love and, astonishingly enough, was loved back. First love is a helluva drug. That didn’t work out in the end, but in the first year it couldn’t have been better. Academically, I did well. It was actually my best year GPA-wise. I had an odd trajectory. Lots of kids showed up and faceplanted (or nearly so) freshman year, and then sorted themselves out and did well. I did fine at first, and slowly declined over time (but overall did fine, though obviously I could’ve done better).

  28. The last year of my Ph.D program. I had a fellowship, so I got paid to write about what I loved. I am a night owl, so I got to write during my most productive time – from about 10pm to 3 or 4 am. The old Batman series was on Nickelodeon at 4, so that was my wind down. For fun and to get out of the house I took a class on Old Norse and got to read Old Norse mythology in the original language. For a huge nerd like me, it was heaven.

  29. The popular choice: junior year in college. At the beginning of the year I was in serious trouble as a physics major (and in those days dropping out meant your next stop was Firebase Charlie), thinking about quitting wrestling, spending 10 hours a day studying in sub-level B of the library. At the end of the year I was no longer varsity heavyweight, was a spanking-new Computer Science major, had met the girl who became my wife (admittedly, 22 years later; we dated for a very long time) and was giving some of the lectures in the second-semester CS course that I was also a student in. By the end of the calendar year I had a faculty appointment to teach CS at Brown. It was a very good year.

  30. After I washed back (failed a section, and had to repeat) the longest part of Weather Forecasting School in Biloxi, MS. I was barely ‘getting’ the concepts down and sort of integrated when we’d move to the next section at that point. When I redid that section, I suddenly had a mental ‘click’ on how everything went together. I passed the second time with flying colors, and when I went to the next section (satellite analysis) everything the instructor was explaining was obvious to me from day one. From that point on, I knew I was going to enjoy my career as a Forecaster – and I did!

  31. Second year of college was very good: I was taking courses I liked, doing fairly well, and having a lot of extracurricular fun. But the final year of my PhD work was far and away the best: I was in a flow state, the research was going gangbusters, and I was having really good ideas all the time. Nothing like it before or since.

  32. 10th grade, high school sophomore year. Learned how to drive, learned how to edit video and make deadlines, built a solid foundation towards being valedictorian, earned responsibility over an entire lab of Macs, amazed classmates and teachers with simple animated projects alongside the customary reports and posters, scored unusually high on a practice run at the SATs, got (and lost) my first girlfriend, had my first (and second) kiss, and had adults look at me differently, like they had just realized I was a worthy adult in a bunch of ways already. Happiest time of my life, even if my priorities were a little screwy.

  33. Junior year in high school was good — merit scholar, vice-president of the Latin club, near-perfect SATs, editing the school paper — but I think the most gratifying may actually have been junior year of college. My major was theatre, but that was the year I was taking history of architecture, art history, theatre history, and early English lit all at hte same time … and all of a sudden, the arc of Western Civ started to come together in a cohesive way for me. It was wonderfully exciting to tie all those threads together into a whole that made sense.

  34. Last year of my master’s program when I was in my late 30’s – first time since my mid-teens I didn’t have to work. Loved the subject matter, had my ex’s creditors off my back, lots of financial aid, real food in the kitchen, a working computer, a car that ran, and tickets to the student section for football (which was pretty good since some kid named
    Peyton was QB’ing the team) and women’s basketball (which was even better than the football program).

    It was a wonderful year…

  35. In fifth grade, I had a teacher who would let us pick out a prize whenever we made 100 on our spelling test. I would almost always pick out a book. Sadly, my family moved halfway through the school year, but my new school wasn’t too shabby either.

  36. Fifth grade, in the 1970s. Ms (NOT MRS.!!) McElroy taught us all about “women’s lib.” I’ve had many great experiences in school, and many horrid ones; this was a good one that made an impression for life.

  37. 2 years: Junior and Senior years of high school. Went to vocational school to study commercial art (southern Ohio has a great vocational school system) and finally found “my people” – folks who where interested in the same things I was (art) and accepted you as a fellow artist. I left all the baggage of growing up a fat, emotionally messed up kid that had hung with me at my local school behind and for the first time felt what it was like to just be accepted. Changed my life.

  38. At 45 years of age, I entered a two-year Executive MBA program designed for mid-career managers. I had a family, a full-time job and now, a very intense, consuming and at times, overwhelming educational experience.

    But, early on, a few of my classmates and I formed a team to work together on case studies and projects. Our work product as a team garnered us recognition and praise.

    More importantly, I had a blast–best two years of my life.

    Most of all, our team bonded. I have made life-long friends.

  39. I’m going to pick a half-year: the fall semester of my senior year in college, which I spent taking math classes in Budapest. (This was in 1986, when everyone expected the Cold War to last forever.) Spending a semester abroad turns out to have been the best decision I ever made. Incredible experience.

  40. Second year of community college, 1975-76. Made real friends for the first time in my life. Studied journalism, got a part-time job as a staffer for a weekly paper, along with several of my classmates. Covered town news, took up drinking vodka. First boyfriend! First girlfriend! Got an apartment with the boyfriend, which was an adventure all by itself. ( The girlfriend eventually dumped me & went to another college out of state.) We gave it up less than a year later, mainly because we were struggling to pay for everything, but we stayed friends & it gave me my first taste of grown up independence.

  41. My senior year in college – I was taking 9 hours for graduate credit, my course load had dropped to 15 hours per semester (all the rest of my undergraduate time it was 20-21 hours). I had a group of friends to hang with and the world was my oyster. I had no job prospects, but was going to go to graduate school anyway so that didn’t matter. I was living in the dorm and had a good roommate from Algeria.

    In short, a near perfect experience.

  42. Returning to school for my master’s, fall semester 2005. I was finally going for the degree I had been blundering after secretly been anticipating for years, after several 90 degree turns. There was a potential pitfall, in that I had arranged a 3 week trip to Europe mid-semester, but I worked out a special presentation with my instructors based on what I was able to learn during my trip, and it all dovetailed together remarkably well. Had a hella good vacation, too.

  43. Definitely my freshman year of college. I was doing well in school for the first time in a long while, had some decent friends, and was super active in the theatre department.

  44. In 2005 after a 27 year career as a CPA, I retired (with a freshly minted English graduate degree) and taught one-year full-time as an English Instructor at Abilene Christian University in Abilene Texas (my BSED and MBA were from there in the seventies). Best year in college in my life, albeit as an Instructor not a student. Great students. Teaching English. Three day weekends back home in Midland, Texas, due to my Mon-Thu schedule. Back where I went to college for two degrees. Had my own office among the English faculty. Daily chapel in Moody Coliseum where all the songs were sung in four-part acapella harmony by three thousand plus students (ACU is a Church of Christ university). It was like singing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only better. I continued to drive to Abilene from Midland to teach night classes for several years thereafter. I moved on to teach English night classes at Midland College and English and Chemistry classes for Midland ISD. My years in public school in the late fifties and sixties were delightful as well as I always liked school. Best year of those was fifth grade when our Librarian read to us Mary Norton’s The Borrowers and J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or There and Back Again. I fell in love with reading and literature in fifth grade. Which is why I make it a point to read Scalzi now as his writing is fully of top-level literary quality.

  45. My second year of a master’s program. I was 30 years old and had some life and work experience. The program was intense but very interesting. That year, I was doing the research for my thesis, which involved going to NYC a number of times to do interviews with teens. I got stood up a couple of times, I took the wrong train once or twice, but the interviews were the raw material for a terrific project. I also had met my spouse-to-be the summer before and we did the long distance thing that year, getting together as often as we could, sometimes meeting in New York. I was doing good work, I liked my fellow students, and I was in love. Can’t beat that.

  46. Graduate school at the University of Chicago, 1982-83. My own room, good friends, great books, conversations intellectual and silly, and the city of Chicago . . . and I met the girl who became my wife. *sigh*

    Also, an M.A. in English from the U of C helped me get attention from employers over the years.

  47. My last year at university. I finished (the Dutch equivalent of) high school age 17 and went straight to university to study English. In my final year at uni we were informed we needed to do another year to get teaching certificates – which was more or less the first time I looked up from my desk since I had reluctantly started to go to school age 6 and decided: enough already. I am done.

    I had worked all kinds of job since I was 14 but I still went through school without thinking much about what I was doing there. I was always good at passing exams and I didn’t actually dislike school but it never felt a place close to heart at all – so yeah, the moment I decided to quit was the best year.
    Mind you, the thing I liked best about university was doing research and I still love that. You don’t need the trappings of learning in order to study.

  48. First semester at Berkeley. For the first time I was really academically challenged and I had THE most brilliant professors. I had a Shakespeare class that year the blew my mind every single day.

  49. Personally I’m enjoying my last full semester right now. I’ll be finishing my last two courses during a month and a half intersession and I’ll be able to convocate in October. I think I’m enjoying this time of my schooling the most because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I may not have a job lined up or anything but I’ll finally be able to go and and search for employment! I’m actually extremely excited.

  50. Dear John,

    OK, best as in “most significant,” well, that’d be my sophomore year in college. Not in order of importance by any means …

    + Editor of the college newspaper, whereon I acquired my professional nickname that later became my full legal name. (that’s all the backstory you’re getting, folks)
    + Decided physics would make a lousy career, but it was a great hobby. Decided to be a professional photographer. Signed up for a second major, in English, because that made for a fun hobby, too. (As it worked out, both educations end up being very useful professionally, and I have become a firm advocate of a liberal arts undergraduate education for everyone.)
    + Got laid for the first time and acquired my first long-term girlfriend (with whom I had sex). Same person, not so BTW.
    + Fell in love for the first of only three times in my life. A *different* person.

    Probably more that I’ve forgotten. That might’ve been the year I became a Resister (draft), but I think that was the next year.

    pax / Ctein
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery
    — Digital Restorations

  51. In College, lab reports yay! Technology saved the day. One of my greatest experience is knowing I could speak to any one at the top of school affairs and be rest assured my case would be sorted in no distant time.

  52. Year 7 (my final year of primary school). Full-time extension classes for the academically gifted and talented. Basically, they put 20 bright kids in a classroom, dropped a teacher who had never done this before in on top of us, and we burned through the year’s curriculum for year 7 inside the first term (or at 3 times the speed of our peers). Which left the teacher struggling for what to do next, because he wasn’t allowed to simply move on to the high school stuff. So we wandered around the place academically, reading whatever, studying whatever, seeing a lot of plays and opera and such, and getting a lot of cultural enrichment for the nonce. We visited the art gallery, the museum, the “collection of dead people bits in formaldehyde” at the school of nursing at one of the local universities (I was the only girl who didn’t get all eeeeewwwww about things, but then, my main reading material for a lot of that year was my mother’s midwifery textbooks). We got taught German by a woman whose main experience teaching prior to that had been teaching maths. It was the one year I remember as “the year I wasn’t bored by school in any way, shape or form”.

  53. None. I disliked school the whole time I was in. I was the nerd who was picked on for being too smart, reading too much, and for the most part I found the whole process of education to be boring and dreary.

    On the other hand, AIT to become a combat engineer was a blast. That I could redo.

  54. My senior year in high school. I knew graduating was going to be a no-brainer, as was finishing at or near the top of the class. Plus I’d arranged my schedule so that I had a very light load of classes and could leave early. And mom let me borrow the car. And I was 18 halfway through it. AND I finally had a BOYFRIEND!!! (he was cute, and nice, and a great kisser, and he got free pizza from his afterschool job… what more could a gal ask for?)

  55. Third year of college – I was taking Advanced Video Production, Advanced Film Production and was Work-Studying Industrial Video Production. I did a short Super-8 movie with some friends, “God of Thunder” (my best friend at the time was a huge KISS fan!), that got me a job in NYC the next year – which ultimately didn’t pan out, but led to my living there for over a quarter-century anyway, and meeting the woman I eventually married, Tamora Pierce. :)

    I had a lot of fun, and got a LOT accomplished as a video/filmmaker, that year. I kind of wish I could go back and keep working – oh, and somehow tell my younger self to lay off booze and Taco Bell….

  56. Undergraduate senior year, because that was when I met my girlfriend, who 15 years later became my wife.

    Also, that was the year I finally realized that both college and leftist politics were mostly BS and started enjoying life.

  57. Second year High School. As a tech/vocational school, it was the first place I’d been in where enthusiasm in learning was encouraged, and socially maladroit children were tolerated. I joined the Science Fiction Club and met 30 people willing to be friends. Now, 40 years later, I’m still in touch with about half of them, and still married to one of them.

  58. Probably every year between 9th grade and finishing my dissertation contributed something crucial to my education (not counting redefining events like getting married in the middle of grad school, which wasn’t really part of the curriculum). But the single most packed year was probably junior year of college, which I spent in Rome, thanks to my school’s participation a program (still) run by Loyola of Chicago. This is my cohort’s 50th anniversary year, and it’s interesting how many of my classmates also rate those nine months as pivotal in their lives. It wasn’t the course work (though I had a theology course that took me several years to absorb) but living in Rome and having long weekends to explore the city and longer breaks to get as far away as London or Barcelona or Istanbul. Florence and Naples were easy weekend trips, and in any case Rome is inexhaustible.

    (Interesting how many third-year-college posts there are here. Maybe it’s just being 19 or 20 and fancy free. But to me, being 19 in Syracuse, New York in 1964 doesn’t sound all that fancy.)

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