This past week has been a great example of something that I find utterly… itch-inducing about college: the simultaneous dragging-on and obliteration of time. I spend most of my time worrying about things that are far enough in the future that I cannot do anything about them (family health issues, my post-grad employment prospects, registering for classes in six weeks when the course atlas isn’t even out) while also freaked out about the things that are approaching faster than I want them to (the timeframe to write my 100-page thesis, the end of the weird cocoon of the last few months, registering for classes in six weeks because the course atlas isn’t even out). Time–at least for me–never, ever passes normally in college. As a result of my particular cocktail of neuroses, this means that I’m pretty constantly anxious about projects that exist in the collegiate timeframe.
I realize that this is a weakness, but I really love short-term projects where I control a large part of the process. I like having a clear beginning and end date and am happy forging a path to connect the two. But when we get to something like my honors thesis–a 100-page document of original research which I have to have written and defended by mid-April–I’m at a loss. It’s a huge project! I want to be working on it so it can be done by February!
But I can’t: I have to wait for IRB approval for the next month, and collect the literature review, and write each of my little chapters (for which I have to wait until the research is done). I have lots to do and no ability to do any of it–and I know that I will be weeping about my overload come February.
Well, at least, I think I do. I know that’s what everyone says will happen. The flip side of my desire to plough through things in small, consistent, uninterrupted chunks (the origin of my anxiety about long-term, multi-part projects) is that I tend to do things well in advance. I’m at a constant low level of anxiety, but it never peaks. It just hovers like that and things… work out.
I can’t decide if I’d prefer some other pattern, as this is the one that I’ve been in since I started college. In high school, my life was governed by the rhythm of a monthly newspaper production cycle, and so there was never any sudden surge to the finish line–each week had its part, and though some were rougher than others they were fairly predictable. I kept cranking, and when each issue was published I started again. The production cycle was short enough and controlled enough by me that I never had the same sort of anxiety that I have now with the thesis.
It is, of course, totally possible that I was this anxious in high school and have repressed it. For reasons that mystify me, I really don’t remember very much about large portions of high school. I know that I had huge emotional peaks and troughs in short periods of time (both because I’ve seen it confirmed in photos and old gchats and because I was 16 and that’s how 16-year-olds work), but I truly don’t remember most of it.
I was in the car today and I was trying to remember who I ate lunch with during my freshman year of high school, and realized that I couldn’t. I know that these things meant a huge amount to me at the time, and I can’t remember them now. I assume that this thesis stress will be the same in four years in my memories.
I think this weird holding pattern will continue until I leave Atlanta. There are too many competing parts of my life in too small a chunk of space, and it makes me itchy. I love the city, but at the very least I need to move to a different chunk of it post-grad. I’m a little bit done with this particular five-mile patch of earth.