Thursday, February 10, 2005

Fahrenheit 102

I've always felt guilty about not working to my full potential. In high school I did well without working very hard and I felt guilty. When I was in college, I always left papers until the last minute, and I felt guilty. In grad school--let's not even go there.
The thing is, sometimes I wonder if I'm being too tough on myself. If you looked at my resume in college, you would call me anything but inactive. I worked 20 hours a week, took a full load of classes, did volunteer work, was on the fencing team for a couple of years, was an RA, peer advisor, committee-for-just-about-anything member....(ha, ha...even as I'm writing this I'm feeling guilty because I still feel like I was faking it).
Grad school was a different matter. For the most part I've done the bare minimum and not even that. Just plain burned out. I never took time off from school. And I had too many soul-crushing experiences knocking out whatever gumption I'd managed to muster along the way. Isn't it ironic, for example, that the semester I worked the hardest in grad school, and that was damn hard, I got the lowest grades? (There are a couple of side stories involved in this that I will write about sometime in "another reason I hate grad school" posts.)
So, this year, it was my resolution to, above all, FINISH MY DISSERTATION. But also to do some other activities that would help build my experience and resume in the direction of what I want my career to be. I have to say I started off well...I've been waking up early, exercising every day from 1/2 to 1 1/2 hours, being an extra-attentive pet owner, eating regular healthy home-cooked meals, attending meetings and doing what I gotta do for those extra-curricular university activities I shouldn't have signed up for.... And continuing all of that without exception while taking that extra job that has now proven to be too much.
I thought I was doing well. But I STILL felt a little guilty, because it seems like other people get so much more done than I do, and because I wasn't doing half the things that needed to get done. And then I get sick.
So it doesn't help that when I talk to my father yesterday and I tell him I feel awful because I'm in bed with a fever and I supposedly have to turn in 25 pages of my diss the next day (have not told him about extra job so as not to upset him), he says, "I hope you have the strength to at least write something."
I know, I'm sick, I'm being oversensitive, he only meant to wish me well...but it kicks in that built-in guilt. OK, so maybe the fever wasn't one of those 104 fevers that make you delirious, but at 102 degrees your brain does not really function well. I didn't even have it in me to watch television.

There is something in this worth thinking about. Especially its relation to my procrastination, to putting things off.

When I came home with As from school as a child, my mother would say "A+s, I want A+s!" Not in an angry tone or anything, just in the "only but the best here!" tone.

Half the time I think I'm not trying hard enough, not performing up to par, and half the time I know I'm working harder than most people.

It's hard for me when someone says, c'mon, just try a little harder, because when I say I need to take a break, I usually REALLY need to take a break and have pushed to my last ounce of energy (though, of course, one can always take that one....extra......step.....) For example, a couple of years ago I was on the roof sweeping and cleaning the gutters with a friend. It was summer and very hot, and I kept on going until I really felt like I was going to pass out if I didn't have some water. I told my friend that I had to take a break to get some water, and he said, "why don't we keep on going until we feel like we really can't do anymore?" I said...yeah, that's right now. I feel annoyed when someone says something like that, or what my father said, I guess because of that built-in guilt...this really basic feeling I have that I'm not hard-core enough, not tough enough. And yet I know I'm strong and can withstand a lot at the same time. It's such a mess in my head how this works. Weird family dynamics are involved, I think.

I'd been trying to pace myself this past week, as much as you can pace yourself working 14-16 hour days, so I wouldn't burn out. Kept on exercising and eating well, took a minute to breathe deep if I felt like I was pushing myself past a limit, allowed myself a small indulgence like blogging at the end of the day before bed. But apparently I didn't do a good enough job, because I got sick. I keep on thinking I got sick because I was feeling too stressed out, trying to do too much. But regardless of what I feel, there are certain deadlines that will not go away. One of these jobs needs to be done come hell or high water. I have to relax, though...getting stressed about it is only going to make it take longer for me to get well....


Blogger SquirrleyMojo said...

Yikes! I _am_ your mother--

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