Ahh, Sweet Summer Freedom

I just finally finished my last paper for the semester.  Seems like an incredibly long semester, I know.  It was.  This last one had a late deadline, which means only my few classmates in this elective course have continued to work, while it seems like the rest of the universe has moved on to joyful and relaxing vacations.  But for me, the last few weeks have mainly involved late nights and anti-social behavior.  I almost completely stopped responding to emails, neglected a number of tasks I need to complete, and haven’t logged into wordpress since the last time I wrote something – and I’m not even sure when that was.  It’s been as if I think I’m only capable of completing one intelligent task at a time – even if the priority task requires more than a week.  Doesn’t matter.  All of my brain power must be focused.  So if you asked me a question during this time – I hope to get around to thinking about it and answering it soon.

emerging from the darkness

Okay, but focusing my intelligence on one task doesn’t mean I haven’t allocated a certain amount of time to mindless activities.  So don’t feel too sorry for me.  I’ve been having a pretty good time.  I’m just looking forward to no longer feeling guilty about the mindless activities, while also thinking intelligently about some other things.

One of my regrets of my self-imposed non-school-thought strike is that I’ve lost track of whatever I should be sharing here.  I even had some moments of self-doubt and considered not returning to the blog.  But there is still plenty to share.  Even if no one still finds this interesting.  Like when I ran into a little boy on my bike – literally ran into him.  Well, he ran into me.  It was his fault, I swear.  But I knocked him down.  And it was horrifying.  This is what’s going on over here, folks.  And I need to get it off my chest. (The kid was fine, by the way. His father only chastised him and didn’t even acknowledge my frantic concern for his careless child’s well-being.)

So now with some new thought time on my hands, I’m going to try to catch up on stuff – in real life and blog life.  I have a new appreciation for summer.  I better not waste it.

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24 hours of mood swings

A couple of days ago I was sleeping hard.  Like that painful kind of sleep.  It was my recovery from a Tuesday/Wednesday emotional roller coaster that wouldn’t quit.  It. just. wouldn’t. quit.

Tuesday – 4pm.  Confidence wavering.   I think this is a good place to start.  I had been working in one of the University’s basement computer labs for most of the day.  And I was in the process of cutting a class for the very first time this semester.  An assignment was due on Wednesday morning – quantitative data analysis using SPSS, a computer program.  I was feeling pretty confident about the statistics stuff.  So although I could have started working on it last week, I thought Monday and Tuesday would be plenty of time.  But after spending the vast majority of Monday trying to install SPSS on my computer (a shockingly long and lost battle), I was left with far less time to finish the thing.

Since I needed SPSS to even begin the assignment, I would have to start and finish it at a computer lab on Tuesday.  So I worked on it, experiencing some setbacks and breakthroughs along the way.  But by 4pm, I was beginning to realize time was going by faster than I was working.

Tuesday – 6pm. Irritated.  Apparently the University thinks 6pm is an acceptable time to close a student study center.  I was on the hunt for another computer with SPSS on it.  I knew of two more labs.  The one I chose would close at 7.  I was limited to one more hour on SPSS.  I would have graphs and tables all ready.  But I would just have to analyze them on my computer at home.

Wednesday – 2am. Agitated and nervous.  Although I expected a smooth process once I opened up the graphs on my computer, the computer’s temperamental personality made an appearance.  The charts and things wouldn’t open.  And on top of that, the computer was freezing every 30 or 40 minutes.  But as long as I could get to the earliest opening computer lab at 8:30 am, I could make it.  But at the rate it was all going, I wasn’t sure if I would sleep.

Wednesday – 5am. Tired with acceptance.  After an incredibly painful process with my computer, I was finally finished – long after I expected to be.  Although I knew I would only have a brief nap before I would have to rush to the computer lab, I was just happy to have completed the hard part.

Wednesday – 8:45am.  Completely panicked.  After arriving at the library at about 8:35, I was facing the absolute slowest computer start-up in history.  I was literally sweating and shaking.  I would describe it as a mini breakdown.

Wednesday – 8:59am.  Relieved.  After a magically speedy editing job, I was finished.  I handed it in electronically.  And I was calm.

Wednesday – 9:15am.  Furious.  The perfect way to celebrate would have been to purchase tickets to one of the Prince concerts in July.  They went on sale on Tuesday.  I was worried they would be sold out.  But no. They had tickets.  They just wouldn’t let me pay for the purchase.  I tried everything.  Imagine my rage.

Wednesday – 1pm.  Ecstatic. After getting some work done and attending a class, I finally got through on the phone.  I had a ticket to see Prince.  To know me is to know how happy that makes me.

Wednesday – 4pm.  Like I’m the shit.  Not only was I still awake and functioning, I was wrapping up a perfectly awesome meeting about my internship.  They gave me really positive feedback on my proposal.  And after dragging our feet to really get started, we’re making a big push to make it happen over the next couple of weeks.  I’ve already been introduced to some dope historians and genealogists who are teaching me a ton, and enthusiastically offering to provide support throughout the projectWe talked about the significance of uncovering the stories of Surinamese families, including the challenges of enslaved people and some interesting trends among free people.  They seemed as anxious to get started as I am.  Overwhelmingly exciting. 

But while I was having some type of conversation about genealogy, as the meeting went along, all I could think about was my excitement to get home to tear up some sleep.

Homework, Procrastination, and Freak Outs

Homework sucks.  Well, no.  I understand it from a reasonable perspective.  If I only attended class, even if I listened really carefully and took diligent notes, I wouldn’t learn much.  Most of the substance comes from reading, reflecting, writing…all of that.  I get it.  Really I do.  But for some reason homework brings on this unwelcome sense of dread and anxiety.

I think it goes back to when homework started picking up – maybe 4th grade.  I used to expect to be finished with all of my assignments by about 7pm.  So when Jeopardy was coming on in the living room, and I still had more than one assignment left to finish, I would freak out.  It would start with biting my nails, progress to a racing heart, and finally escalate to full-blown tears.  It was insane.  My mother would explain that I was only wasting more time with my freak out.  But I couldn’t be reasoned with.  I was already convinced I would still be doing math word problems as the sun rose…on my 20th birthday.

I didn’t have as much time to panic over homework in high school.  I was always involved with a bunch of activities, mainly ballet, that kept me busy.  By the time I got home and had some dinner, I only had a couple of hours before I needed to be asleep.  So even though I hated it, I just had to get it done.  One night I remember eating my dinner on the way to a rehearsal, while writing a paper, relying on the light in the car.  If I had taken time for a freak out, I would have missed rehearsal, and I wouldn’t have finished the paper.

The problem became procrastination, a good friend I met in college.  More free time meant more time to waste.  If I had 2 days to complete a paper, something else of critical importance would take priority on the first day – something like cleaning my roommate’s hair out of the vacuum or sitting in a room with a few friends discussing how much work we had to do.  On the second day, I would get everything else out of the way at the beginning of the day – checking mail, having breakfast and lunch, maybe a class or rehearsal.  Nothing would be finished between any of those things.  So I wouldn’t start until they were all completed.  And that usually left me at 9 or 10pm, beginning a paper that was due the following day.  I had it worked out to a science though.  Mountain Dew, commiserating friends, and knowledge that it had been done before got me through it every time.  I lost a lot of sleep.  And I had a reasonable number of freak outs.  And none of it helped improve my relationship with homework.

Law school was just about the same, defined by procrastination and complaining.  But that complaining was warranted.

And now, here I am about a decade later, still biting my nails, wasting time, and freaking out about homework.

I handed in my first real paper last week.  Although I left myself plenty of time to write the paper, it took me far longer than I expected to finish.  At one point I had to trash my argument because it was centered around an article that turned out to be absolutely nutso (took me three reads to realize the guy was talking about magic more literally than is acceptable in an academic environment).  Researching, re-reading, and trying to make sense of it all just went on and on.  I expected to finish with plenty of time to spare.  But around midnight, the night before it was due (it was to be emailed by midnight the following night), I was making fried rice and tea, knowing I would be up for several more hours.  And then, of course, old habits came back to haunt me.  No tears were shed.  But self-doubt made an appearance.  And then there was that woman I haven’t been in touch with for 4 years on facebook – I needed to look at all 121 of her Grand Canyon vacation photos.  And then there was my phone’s ringtone – that had to be changed.  And then of course there was the discovery of Top Chef All Stars on youtube.  My goodness.  There was just so much to do in such a short period of time.

But there’s a happy ending.  I finished the paper, emailed it, and handed in the hard copy before 6pm the following day (perhaps my earliest ever).  And I think it made sense.  If it didn’t make sense, well it’s not so much a happy ending.  But it certainly felt happy to get over that hurdle.  And having spent so much time on the paper, I understood more of the concepts than I had before I began.

So finally feeling a bit smarter and more confident, I think homework and I may have reached a better place…but that’s not to say I won’t be looking at every single photo you’ve posted on facebook the night before my next paper is due.