New Year’s Resolved

January 3, 2008 at 9:42 pm (Dissertation, General, Writing)

Although most of you will find this hard to believe, I am my own harshest critic. Although I might wax publicly about how awesome I am, I spend (and always have spent, at least since I was a teenager) a significant portion of my waking hours depressed, because I feel that I do not measure up against some internal yardstick. Usually, the measure at which I fail is discipline, inasmuch as I haven’t yet completed my dissertation, even though I’m 30 and ought to be done already and getting on with my life, and why can’t I just buckle down for eight hours a day like everyone says I’m supposed to, and… Well, you get the idea. I’m like that about everything that I try doing: Languages, school, writing, art, cooking, etc. I’ve always had a short attention span, and that makes it hard to get anywhere with a specific project.

I’ve always thought that I was pretty unique in this problem, that the rest of the world breezed happily by, content in their normal-length attention spans and pedestrian dreams (oh, yeah, I’m pretty self-centered, too). But, listening to an NPR interview with Merle Haggard today, he made a point that I’ve heard before, and never really understood until now: “The only person I still haven’t learned how to live with is myself.” Maybe it’s the season, but hearing him say that, I suddenly realized that that expression really refers to how you judge yourself and your accomplishments, and how you treat yourself as a result. I also haven’t learned to live with myself, and I doubt that I ever will.

However, there must be a constructive way to channel this angst, yes? Isn’t that the point of New Year’s resolutions? I’m pretty good about making lists and schedules, but I’m rather bad about sticking to them. So, instead of trying to micro-manage my life this year, I’m going to try something new this year: Telling my internal yardstick to stick its yard up its, well, you know. That is, I’m not going to just quit everything I’m working on. Completing my dissertation is still my highest priority, and I still need to work on it longer and more consistently if I’m going to finish anytime in this century. But all that other stuff I tell myself, about needing to finish X number of my creative projects before I’m valuable, or about needing to make X amount of money before I’m not a waste, I’m going to try stopping that. If I want to spend one evening working on one story, another watching a movie, a third searching for GPS data on Austria, and a forth looking through cookbooks, after having put in a good session on my dissertation, well, I’m going to see if I can’t convince myself that that’s okay.

I know, of course, that doing that will slow me down on ever finishing any one of those other tasks/ideas that I come up with. But that fact of the matter is, I’ve been setting myself deadlines and weekends and the like for the past six years, and I haven’t managed to finish any of them so far, either! Maybe I can really only concentrate on one thing at a time, and I have to let my mind wander on everything else in order to keep up focus on that one thing. Maybe this will do wonders for my self-image and my productivity. And, if it doesn’t, it’s not like I’ve lost anything. After all, it’s just life, right? Who am I trying to impress?

Just me.

1 Comment

  1. marystan said,

    You impress me non-stop, but I know I don’t count. So, now that you have awareness of the problem, you can think about not doing it to yourself. Welcome to the ‘If I do this one more thing, then I’ll be worthwhile” club. It’s a long process and takes some weird machinations sometimes (remember you attended my memorial). But I’m tickled you’re allowing some ease into your life. Another thing I heard a while ago that makes sense is that when you set so many goals and fail to meet them, you continually feel as though you’re a failure. Priorities and focus; hmm, I’m still working on it.
    love you. Should we blow off our wacky idea to get together this year? Yeah, let’s just be spontaneous and not social failures.

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