Friday, January 28, 2011

On the road to Pace, but at a different pace.

I'm zooming up the Jersey turnpike (I generally like to go through this state as fast as absolutely possible) on my way to NY to see Will compete in a moot court competition at Pace University. Watching him prep for this has been so inspiring. He works harder than anyone I have ever met, ever, and pours his absolute all into everything he does. This can have its downsides, no doubt: skimped social life, late nights (for him- I put in ear plugs and eye mask a la Holly Golightly and conch out), and much, much too much time apart. But watching him work as hard as he does is so good for me.

I always want to be good at whatever I do right away- the instant gratification of perfection has yet to fall within my hands, but I still think that I should be able to 'get' anything I undertake instantly. And this has led to some less than fun outcomes, most especially in the procrastination department. One of my first professors once said that procrastination is just the way some people work, that it's their 'process'. I took these words to heart. Oh, how sweet the knowledge that it was just my process, my journey! I would roll over for another 20 minutes (read: 2 hours) of sleep, slumbering soundly in the knowledge that it was all part of my process, that I would be able to pull out whatever project I was working on (or supposed to be, anyway) at the last minute and all would be well. And this generally, for better or for worse, worked. I am fairly bright. Not brilliant, but pretty sharp. And I am a fast worker on many things, most especially writing. But not in-depth, deeply researched writing. And here is where my nasty little habit has kicked me in the ass in recent years. I have embraced my chosen career path of academia with joy and passion- I feel like I have found my calling, and am jumping in wholeheartedly, undertaking projects that I never before would have dreamed of being able to tackle. But this is a different kind of writing, kids. Nuanced research, transcriptions (kill me), detailed, precise formatting. I do declare, Miss Melanie, it's almost more than I can bear!

Well, fiddledeedee to all of that is what I learn every time I watch Will going at it with his work. I see him logging countless hours to make sure that he can be proud of everything he does. His dad always says that the only thing you really have is your reputation, and in my little procrastination game I have put mine on the line a few more times than I care to admit because of waiting until the last second and only barely squeezing out a good product. I could do So. Much. More. If I give myself more time.

And here's the miracle: I'm actually doing this. For the past several weeks, I have been leaving more time for almost everything I do, and my life is immeasurably more pleasurable now that I'm not flying by the seat of my pants. A lot of this has simply been the result of taking on less than I usually do. Leaving the country for the better part of a month meant that people weren't asking me to join in on things, both things fun and not so much fun, and the result is that I am not feeling pressured to do as much. I feel like Cambodia reset my clock a bit. Life is so much slooooowwwweeeerrrr there, due to lack of infrastructure in some part, but also because I think there is a cultural acceptance of the fact that we are but mere mortals, and need not schedule ourselves at a frenetic hamster-wheel pace in order to be worthy humans. I felt like it was ok to be a human being rather than a human doing there. And this worked for me pretty well.

I actually only had one nightmare the whole time I was there, which is nothing short of a miracle for me, Queen of the Night Terrors. I had one last night- a baby one, only a 3 out of 10 on the terror scale. I thought my nightmares had to do with things non-stress related, but now I am questioning if perhaps it has more to do with the pace of life I am leading. We went a million miles a minute in Cambodia, no doubt- every single second was scheduled and structured to the max. However, there were no deadlines, no due dates, no looming bosses or taskmasters, versus right now: Will moved back from Miami last night after eight months of us living apart, I have a MAJOR application due Tuesday on which I have pinned a lot of hopes and dreams, we are looking for an apartment, we are looking for a job for Will, we are looking for a GA position for me, I am editing a paper for a conference in three weeks, and, oh, we live with my family (which is lovely, but still, it’s a lot to juggle a marriage and living in your mommy’s basement).

To pull this meandering thought train into the station, my point is this: I can be an amazing academic, and help influence changes that will lead to a more peaceful and just society. But only if I give myself enough time to really put out work using all of my best mental and emotional faculties. That shit takes time. And energy. And that’s ok. Because this is not going to simply result in better work; it will also yield less stress, as I will not be in wackadoo-hamster mode. And this is a happy thing. Yay.

Since I’m already doing this, I won’t call it a New Year’s resolution or anything like that, so much as be grateful for the fact that I do seem to be living this lack of procrastination out on a daily basis. But I do think I will have to keep working at it. Thank goodness I have a good role model.

When I grow up, I want to be Will Mount.

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