On Existential Itching

Today I am going to talk about something that isn’t street festivals. (And lo, the small-but-dedicated blog audience cheered.) Instead of fried foods sold from tents, I want to talk about motivation–specifically, the complete lack of it that I have had since moving off campus.

I used to be the queen of Getting Shit Done (it’s like GTD with yelling). I was that weirdo that scheduled her homework six weeks in advance and then sat down and did it. I never pulled an all-nighter, and I was always in bed by midnight. My to-do list system detailed in that blog post worked very well for me.

Then senior year happened, and I just… stopped wanting to do what was on the list. I stopped wanting to check my email because doing so gave me a list of terrifying new things that I’d have to incorporate into my schedule. When my laptop charger died and my computer wasn’t terribly useable, I used this as an excuse to simply not look at online readings for a few weekends.

I’ve become a walking example of the creeping sense of dread that motivates people to be so on their Inbox Zero game. (For those who haven’t seen the original talk–which I highly recommend–Merlin Mann argues that allowing email to accumulate leads to this horrible dread where folks eventually shut down and quit processing anything, which is… not helpful.)

I’m pretty sure this is all due to the twin facts that I am currently living in a lovely, quiet, off-campus apartment and that I am underloading on classes.

Because here’s the thing: dorms suck in many different ways. (For example, shower vomit.) But as much as dorm life sucks, there is a great sense of camaraderie underlying it. Everyone is there for the same purpose, and being around peers who are constantly studying makes it very easy to do the same. That’s why you’re in the dorms, by their very nature, unless you’re someone’s off-campus boyfriend who’s living there for free and everyone hates you.

The same is not true of an apartment. I am here for studying, but my neighbors are here for raising very large poodles, as best I can tell. Other neighbors are here because they are retired, or they are working as nurses, or they work in the nearby dental office. I wouldn’t know, of course, because I don’t know them. I cannot wander into their rooms and sit on their beds and write my reading responses while they do the same.

Instead, I sit alone in my apartment (my roommate is usually gone at rehearsal for various things) and stare at the wall. Finishing what’s in my planner seems out-of-character for the apartment, almost, and insurmountable even if I know I should be doing it. It’s not a good setup, particularly given that I just fill my time with staring at my patio and watching Parks and Rec reruns for the eighth time. Leslie Knope would not be proud.

The other part of this is the fact that–because I actually have all of my degree requirements done already–I am kind of only staying in school right now because my scholarship pays for it and I might as well. This year is really about my honors thesis–the classes I’m taking are really just there to give me the full-time status I need to do the reserach. But, as a result, I am only taking three classes instead of my usual four or five, and I am only on campus twice a week. My third class–the credit hours portion of writing my thesis–only meets five times a semester, and so my brain is planning these horrible “out of sight, out of mind” tricks on me about the only thing that actually matters about this year. (Thanks, brain!)

I’m feeling less and less tethered to Emory as I work at my various weird part-time jobs in my off-campus apartment. This is probably a totally healthy idea in theory (I need to start facing outward so I am not deeply unemployed when I graduate), but this year of remaining loosely tied to my school (but tied nonetheless) is an uncomfortable one so far. I am worried that my brain will move on before I am actually done with what I need to do on campus, and that does not bode well for my GPA or likelihood of thesis completion.

Senior years are just not great places for me, I think–I hated senior year of high school much of the time. I like either being in the thick of things or being done with them. These liminal years (between high school and college or college and full-time employment) make me existentially itchy.

I’m going to go stare at my patio before work, now.

One thought on “On Existential Itching

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