Balancing school and fencing has always been something I had to manage, but I found my junior year to be much more difficult for the balancing act. Junior year, in itself, is a big leap from sophomore year as the quantity of schoolwork increases significantly. I enrolled in 6 AP classes this year which would have been easily manageable had it been a “normal” year. However, online school seriously challenged my ability to stay focused and motivated.
Staying focused and motivated has been an ongoing struggle I’ve had to face every day. Back when school was in-person, it was business as usual. I would go to classes, teachers would assign homework for the next day, and I would come home and study. However, ever since I started zooming, many distractions were more immediately accessible, and it took what seemed like a Herculean effort to stay clear from now-all-too-familiar distractions. When YouTube and Netflix are just a click away while the APUSH teacher is boringly rambling on about Franklin Roosevelt, it’s hard to prevent my mind from wandering away from the bullet points on a static Power Point slide. As trying to keep focused unwaveringly wasn’t fruitful for me, I decided to practice more intentional listening and thinking. I make more mental notes from which I check off, and this gives me a better sense of daily achievements.
Taking exams in online classes has its unique challenges. For example, my integrity is put to the test when there’s that last question for which I am simply unprepared. Searching for an answer to the question on Google would take two seconds, but I quickly remind myself that my integrity isn’t negotiable for a couple of additional points on the exam. I now have a slightly different appreciation of my junior year spent largely in the 14-inch classroom. It has taught me different ways to motivate myself and how to amplify the sense of integrity.
Similarly, I had to reexamine my commitment to my fencing. With all my schoolwork and fatigue, there have always been reasons not to practice with the fencing dummy or do the 30-minute cardio workout. Looking back at all the excuses I used to justify my tendency towards procrastination, I can confidently proclaim that Gus Ahn is the resident expert of convincingly arguing with himself or with anyone else who would listen why he doesn’t have time to put in the work. However, I started thinking about how procrastinating would irreparably jeopardize my fencing ability when tournaments open up again. What would happen if I permanently lost that burning urge to fence? I knew that if I continued to give in to my laziness, I would be stepping on to the strip for the first time in 9 months completely unprepared, mentally, and physically. The result of that would-be first bout gave me the chills. That’s when I found my “why”, the “why” that crushed all my personal reasons not to practice. I forced my out-of-shape body and even more out-of-shape mind to reboot and created a habit of regularly exercising and doing fencing drills.
Now that schools are opening back up and tournaments are coming very soon, I’m thankful that I have grown and matured a bit through the whole quarantine experience. It helped me discover things I never thought that I needed to improve and allowed me to reset. My fencing is steadily getting back to normal. Going back to school won’t be such a big adjustment. If anything, it’ll be easier after having fought through all these difficulties. With stronger resolve and self-motivation, I’m ready to jump back on the strip.