24 October 2011

Getting Side Tracked

I’ll get right to what’s on my mind as I sit down to write this entry. Last week was terrible. I only worked on my dissertation two days out of five. I normally don’t work on it on weekends either. I contemplated doing so in order to catch up, but I was rather frazzled by Friday. A dear friend is also preparing to move, and I wanted to make sure that we hung out together before she leaves the area for good sans the occasional visit. Not that hanging out took up the whole weekend. But needless to say, other things miraculously came up.

I briefly mentioned in my last blog entry from nearly a week ago that I had taken on a sizable project at work. This project was certainly the biggest reason why I got so little work done on my dissertation. I had to be finished with the project by Friday. I spent increasingly longer hours each day working on it as it became clear to me that the project--which was described to me as straight forward--turned out to be not so straightforward.

I’m going to avoid ranting about the project itself. Rants are not the goal of a blog of this sort, or at least that is not how I have envisioned it. But I do think I ought to be able to explore how I felt as a result. And the short version is that I greatly resented being side tracked for most of the week from my dissertation, since, ultimately, that is my primary responsibility at this stage. In fact, I wish it was my only responsibility. There have been periods where I have purposely tried to make it so. But I know that’s not a very realistic approach nor even a practical one. And I think attempting to make my dissertation my only responsibility has in some ways been detrimental. I might have been less upset if I had allowed myself to fully acknowledge that other tasks were bound to come up. I did, in fact, repeat this to myself as I noted that I would have to spend more and more time on the side project in order to meet my deadline. But that didn’t stop me from becoming more and more frustrated and upset each day. Had I not done so, I might have found the energy to work on my dissertation during the in-between periods where I needed to step away from the side project. Those periods became less frequent and shorter as the week wore on, but they were opportunities that I may have taken advantage of. But I did not. I felt that I was so exhausted that I chose to do nothing, by which I mean I chose to not continue to work but to occupy myself in some other way.

I think ‘choice’ says a lot here. But I want to be clear. I am not one of those who thinks that everything comes down to the choices we make in life, which is preposterous, hurtful, and insulting to those of us who have literally not been given a choice in some of the ‘issues’ that affect our lives, whether that is being LGBT, something other than white male (and I even take issue with what that means exactly, since not every white male acts like the ‘white male’ that we all think of when we hear those two words), under educated, uneducated, underemployed, unemployed, underinsured or uninsured, poor, or in some way marginalized. Nor do I necessarily think I had as much choice as I would like to have had over how last week played out for me. But I do think, or I want to think that I could have approached how I responded to being side tracked from my dissertation last week differently than I did. As I’ve already written, I might have been a bit calmer about things. Resentment is a pretty exhausting feeling. And though I did repeat a sort of mantra to myself about how things were not really in my control and that such periods are an inevitable part of the process, I don’t think I really accepted the situation. And that only added to my resentment.

I honestly don’t know where this leaves me for the next time something like this happens, as it is bound to happen. I like to believe that it is always possible to learn something from every situation, whether we make a mistake (the best way to learn) or if we do something that turns out to be effective (which is not the same thing as good). But what can I say I have actually learned here? Would I have actually done anything differently if I could do the week over again, knowing that I still would have had to prioritize the side project? I don’t think I could have done otherwise. I also know that I genuinely felt as though I couldn’t manage to squeeze any more work ethic out of myself each day.

I’ve written that I could have accepted the situation and minimized the amount of resentment I felt, but I’m not sure how I could have done that exactly. And I note that I didn’t resent spending what down time I did have during the week not playing catch up, nor for the whole of the weekend, which suggests to me that more is going on here than I am able to work out just now (partly because I’m exhausted, partly because I really hate how this blog entry is turning out, and partly because I’m avoiding ranting, although perhaps that would be really helpful to me). But what do I say at this point? Do I just move on? Do I just forget about last week and start over this week? Perhaps, but I have always been suspicious of the attitude that we should only live in and for the present. If I’ve learned anything from reading and rereading Derrida, it’s that the ‘present’ is every bit as illusory as the ‘past’ and the ‘future’, by which I mean that these constructs require a healthy amount of skepticism in terms of how we narrate our concepts of time to ourselves and to others. As such, all I can think to say in conclusion is that the lesson may be to play with how I felt, what I think that may or may not mean, and to leave what I think open ended rather than struggle for some sort of resolution which is probably illusory as well.

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