Been in poor spirits… Took my translation exam and I think I bombed it.
I’ve always felt that writing, or making films, was a lot like sheetrocking a wall: you put up a structure, then spackle over the surface so the cracks and bumps don’t show. Most of the time, the process disappears; all you see is the result.
Eric Breitbart, A World on Display, 1997
My teaching is being observed tomorrow and I caught the cold of a lifetime…
Rain is a rare thing where I currently live. But what I did not know about rain and California is that the second the drops start falling, everybody and their mother thinks “HOT SOUP” and runs to Panera. As such, it was incredibly hard to find a seat, and a seat next to a wall outlet was too much to ask for. So I write this blog with 25% battery left. T minus 25 before shut off.
So as I grade these papers, I think about something that often plagues my mind on these crowded days: why is it impossible for me to get work done at home? Does any other student deal with this aversion? I used to blame it on the fact that home contained everything that distracted me: TV, video games, junk food, partner, pets, chores, etc. But the answer has to lie somewhere deeper. I think it is just that I enjoy being surrounded by other people being productive. At the moment there is a group of business associates debating Microsoft Access vs. Excel, an elderly gent reading the Wall St. Journal, a girl translating her homework, and me. I see them here often and we give each other the acknowledging nod. We all know we come here for work and we do not wish to be disturbed. “Panera is my Office Anonymous.”
I’m going to write a book someday about all of the people I observe here — all of the people who have the same aversion to working at home. I don’t know any of them by name, but considering how often I find them here, I am pretty darned sure they can relate to me in a way that people I know by name cannot.
The battery light is flashing red.
Getting feedback (and honest feedback at that) is truly precious in the world of academia. Feeling great.
The plane-ride back to California from my winter (and childhood) home is always a bitter-sweet moment… After a series of year-long goodbyes to friends and family, it marks the beginning of a new quarter and a new year. Being surrounded by strangers, crying children, and impatient travelers does nothing to ease the homesick feeling that quickly overwhelms me. I would exchange anything that California has to offer–the warm weather, the beach, the people who wear winter coats when it hits 60 degrees–to stay for another week. Just one more week of being cared for. Just one more week of baking cookies and decking the halls before returning to the source of stress.
One thing graduate school has taught me: work is 24/7. When I am not working, I am only procrastinating. There is no “time off” because any free time is consumed by the incessant deadlines and reading that I “should” be doing, writing that I “should” be accomplishing. But for two weeks of the year, I am in a place where I set aside e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g and regain my sanity. I see friends who have normal jobs and normal lives, and they fill me in on the usual gossip–who is dating who, D. got married, T. is pregnant, A. fell off the face of the earth. It fills me with a sense of nostalgia. I know my friends do not really understand what I am doing. They know I am in school (“for a long time”) studying a topic (“something art-related”) and working towards an elusive degree that may or may not amount in a successful career (“a PhD? What do you do with that?”), but they always lend me their ear and listen to my trials and tribulations in the way that only a dear friend can. With a year separating each time we meet, I cannot shake the feeling that I am getting older. My parents, as much as they remain the same, show the effects of time on their faces and bodies in a way I forget in our weekly phone conversations.
And so I return here sad, but rejuvenated. And I am determined that this quarter and this year are going to be somehow better than the last. I usually do not make any kind of resolutions with the new year because I am notorious for breaking any rules I set for myself. However, there are several commitments I know I can work towards, if not achieve.
- I will be healthier this year. I will remember to take my vitamins and I will eat more fruits and veggies because being healthy makes me happy.
- I will take each deadline as it comes, and work towards my goals one at a time. Because accomplishing small tasks that lead into larger plans also makes me happy.
- I will do my best to be better about calling my parents and my sister this year. Because talking to them makes me happy.
- I will continue to value my friendships here, because they are my home away from home. And because they make me happy.
- I will always put 110% effort into teaching and being a good role model for my students. Because seeing eyes light up is one of the best things about this whole experience and makes me happy.
- And I will be better about budgeting my money to avoid a financial fiasco come summer. Because money makes me severely unhappy and having more control over it can only increase my happy factor by at least 1/2.
I think these are all things that I am currently working towards and that I can accomplish. I am not vowing to lose 100lbs by summer or cut out all chocolate from my diet (which, as past resolutions have proven, are impossible tasks), but this year I am putting ME and MY happiness first.