apathy has set in

it is absolutely astonishing how little i can do for such an extended period of time. i think i could make "sitting around and halfheartedly thinking about what i should be doing" a full-time job. i find that to be both a little awe-inspiring and a lot scary.

it’s summer school time, and my students are really not working at all. they’re frustrating me like crazy–they are the complete opposite of my spring class, which worked overtime. i am quite annoyed by the abrupt 180 from that class to this one, and i just have to keep reminding myself that it will be over in a couple of weeks.

summer is also the time when i’m supposed to get my Real Work done, since there are no faculty meetings and (if you want) no classes to teach. unfortunately for us, we have a mortgage, so we both teach as much summer school as we can. in addition, i decided to teach in the first six weeks, so i haven’t had a "break" yet (and i really need one)… and i’m also advising a thesis for a student who is actively working this summer… and i’m wrapping up an independent study with a very motivated student who turned her one project into two this past spring. not a lot of time for my Real Work in there.

this is the summer before i am supposed to go up for tenure, so i have the added stress of: (a) sending out anything even remotely publishable, (b) deciding who to select as my case manager–bah, politics, (c) thinking about who to suggest for my oustide letters of support, and (d) whatever else i’m supposed to be doing but am not.

it is so frustrating to be 31, with a real career, and yet feel like i haven’t figured myself out. i always used to say that i worked best under pressure. i am such a procrastinator, but i have never really been "punished" for it (i.e., i always finished the paper and got a good grade), so i decided it must work for me. then again, when i am really and truly freaked about something, i just shut down and can’t do it. i first became aware of that problem when working on my dissertation, and it’s still true today. i’d rather do 274 little things that i can rationalize "need doing" than get to work on the one giant thing that will ruin me if i don’t do it.

and so here i am, thinking halfheartedly about the thing i really need to do, which is write some manuscripts. i kind of hate me today.

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5 comments

  1. It is funny; as I read your blog entry, I’m amazed by how it so very closely mirrors my own situation and experience. We, too, have a mortgage and are doing summer teaching, and I just got through the rigors of a mid-point professional review. I think there are a few things here: for one thing, academic isn’t so good to us in general, it demands much and gives us too little time to do everything that we need to do, so we feel burnt out. It also seems to tell us that you can never do enough. If there were “enough” there’d be little way to keep junior faculty toiling away for a pittance.
    I, too, get “shut down” by being freaked about things, and it also happened to me for the first time with my diss. It is to the point where I turned a chapter of my dissertation into an article for one of the top-5 journals in my field, it was accepted with revisions, but I can’t bring myself to do the revisions because I get frozen just remembering my dissertation.
    I’m rambling here….but I think my point is to say that I understand where you’re at, if that helps at all. Rather than blaming the relentless nature of the system, we tend to blame ourselves, but that’s not the best thing. I guess this is a plea for you not to hate yourself, because after all, it is the job that’s doing this, and it does it to us all. The key is in recognizing that and then finding ways to deal with it productively. I’ve personally found that turning it inward is dangerous.
    Anyway, good luck. Hang in there.

  2. Frustrated at 31? You’re just a pup! I always wonder about the goal of getting to know yourself in every deep possible way. After all, we’re ever-changing creatures. (Hopefully.)
    I tend to put myself into pressure situations too. And I’m very good at finding distractions as well. You should see how clean my place gets just before a deadline!
    The only advice I feel like I can give is probably trite and obvious. But it’s still something that I challenge myself to do because it really seems to work: I’ve learned to break down my daunting tasks into really tiny parts. And I mean tiny. If I think of it as a whole project I don’t even want to begin. But the tiny tasks get me past that and they also help to create some momentum. And, of course, I reward myself after completing a few tasks in a row.
    Now I’m off to add a title to something. Then go get some strawberries….

  3. Wow, you sound so much like me it’s weird. I get the exact same way when I have large projects looming. So far this summer I’ve done tons of little things around the house and I’ve spent lots of time on the internet, but have I actually touched one of the several publications I should be working on? Of course not. We are in our break now since we don’t teach until July (to make that extra cash), but I’ve been so burnt out after last semester that I can barely stand even to go into my office.
    Mason’s advice is good – break things down into tiny parts. Unfortunately I rarely follow that advice. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m lazy or burnt out or overwhelmed.

  4. vegenaise, Mason, and pleather: not to sound like a huge cornball, but your responses were extremely helpful for me to read. honestly, i got a little teary. i’m an emotional person, what can i say?
    this week has gone from bad to worse, and i’m still not making a lot of progress, but it helps to know that i’m not alone in feeling this way… and Mason, i know you’re right about the tiny tasks/reward system. i need to do that more. instead i tend to “reward” myself constantly by doing other stuff that i’d rather be doing, and never get around to the actual tasks. bah.
    my good friend tweely (who posts here sometimes) also says it’s a really smart strategy to just pick a small block of time–even 5 minutes–and say, “okay i’m going to work on this for just 5 minutes.” if you can force yourself to do that, you often find you’ll work on it considerably longer than just the 5 minutes. the name for this little strategy has a decidedly non-vegan bent, so i’ll just keep that to myself. hee.
    vegenaise, congratulations on the accepted with revisions… and i SO understand where you are with that. i have a revise and resubmit i’ve been sitting on for much longer than i’d care to admit.
    pleather, i hope you are able to go back to your office soon. i really know the feeling.
    thanks again you guys. your support and sharing really means a lot to me. and Mason, i’m so glad you finally delurked!

  5. vegenaise, Mason, and pleather: not to sound like a huge cornball, but your responses were extremely helpful for me to read. honestly, i got a little teary. i’m an emotional person, what can i say?
    this week has gone from bad to worse, and i’m still not making a lot of progress, but it helps to know that i’m not alone in feeling this way… and Mason, i know you’re right about the tiny tasks/reward system. i need to do that more. instead i tend to “reward” myself constantly by doing other stuff that i’d rather be doing, and never get around to the actual tasks. bah.
    my good friend tweely (who posts here sometimes) also says it’s a really smart strategy to just pick a small block of time–even 5 minutes–and say, “okay i’m going to work on this for just 5 minutes.” if you can force yourself to do that, you often find you’ll work on it considerably longer than just the 5 minutes. the name for this little strategy has a decidedly non-vegan bent, so i’ll just keep that to myself. hee.
    vegenaise, congratulations on the accepted with revisions… and i SO understand where you are with that. i have a revise and resubmit i’ve been sitting on for much longer than i’d care to admit.
    pleather, i hope you are able to go back to your office soon. i really know the feeling.
    thanks again you guys. your support and sharing really means a lot to me. and Mason, i’m so glad you finally delurked!

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