Sunday, April 1, 2007

New Year's Resolutions

I’m back! I have returned, picked up my cats, and gotten to the down-and-dirty of preparing for a new quarter. Today was give everything the last really good cleaning it will have for 10 weeks, including chipping out the ice from my freezer before the last tiny hole closed entirely day ---- Hello frozen chicken! Look, peas and green beans! Dr. Livingstone, I presume? No, call me Shackleton. Tomorrow is for cleaning up me and my new spring wardrobe ---- thank you Tar-jay. I may have gone overboard with the cheap new fabulousness and spent my TAship already, but I have been holding out for a long time on shopping, thinking that I would be getting a job and/or moving somewhere different that had weather, but since I did not get any job offers and so will not be needing professor-ly clothing, I finally came to grips with that fact and got new grad-student-ly clothes to replace the stuff which is looking, frankly, rather ratty.

The downside to the quarter system is immediately evident to anyone who wants to do research or survive grad classes (on either side of the table). The upside is that you feel you are starting anew every few months, a plus for the socially ADD. That new-eraser smell of a new start all around! Fresh new student faces and new class topics! (I had the quarter system as an undergrad and it was fine ---- sometimes I felt I was just getting over my shyness to really talk to my classmates after class when --- whhsssst! --- a new quarter whirled up and I never saw those classmates again ---- but for the most part it was just about right. You didn’t get bored, and if the class or teacher sucked, you just leaned back and waited it out for a bit.) I tend to think of these new starts as like new years, and since I never keep my New Year’s Resolutions for more than a few weeks anyway, I try to take the time to rededicate myself to them and rejuvenate myself. So, with that, I will brainstorm a few areas to work on during the upcoming spring whirl.

1. Write on the diss. every day. This is obvious, as not being finished is my biggest barrier to any sort of progress on my life. I’m usually pretty good at plugging away steadily, but I’m researching and planning a new chapter right now, so I need to make sure I don’t procrastinate endlessly by reading books and also that I don’t make impossible daily goals that interfere with my survival (see below). I’m not going to make any page/hour goals here, just promise that teaching won’t prevent me from putting in regular daily work.

2. Wear skirts. I love clothes and makeup but hate the daily effort. I may be modest and reserved, but if nudism were at all an option I’m sure I’d overcome any lingering embarrassment for the ease of just get-up-and-go without dealing with matching things and prepping and making an effort to look professional, or at least cute. I’ve made the case before that, if we in the academy really profess to be living the life of the mind, we should all wear monk’s robes ---- preferably something softer and fuzzier than hair shirts. See? Loose, comfortable, just add sandals and a rope belt and you’re good to go!

Anyway, when I work at it I can be not just decently dressed, but fresh and sparkling or even, dare I say, snazzy, all the way until 8th week, when the shit hits the fan (you can see the sartorial standards slide for everyone starting then, not just me). When I don’t consciously make an effort, I start out at week-8 quality and degenerate into borderline homeless-looking.

3. Keep up the sunscreen. Ever since finding a Disturbing Splotch and being told to keep an eye on it by a dermatologist, I have actually been quite good at wearing sunscreen and various snake oil youth preserving ointments every day, even on overcast days. Sad to say, it was the vanity and not the possible impending mortality that got me to get religion on the sunscreen. What can I say ---- I’m in California, where shallowness and an emphasis on surfaces are virtues. I may be vain, but I am pale now, which is a slight rebellion against the California-ness.

4. Exercise. Sadly, I have kept this resolution successfully in the distant past, but did not work out once all of the past quarter. (I’m not counting taking nice little walks.) I need to get back in the swing of things and force myself not only to work out, but to do it regularly. My schedule is conducive to workouts this time so there is some hope. The exercise would also help drop the weight I think I put on over break --- my dad’s scale seems untrustworthy. It didn’t change all week, but considering my dad is the king of middlebrow food and insisted we go out to: Applebee’s, a Chili’s, two different ok deep-dish pizza chains, and Best Mexican Restaurant in the world, a hole in the wall place near my parents’ house that we have loved since coming to California --- I am dubious that I have maintained my weight.

5. Social life --- what’s that? This may surprise you, but this one is the most important and most difficult for me of all. It really should be number 1, but I didn’t want to confuse you. I hereby resolve to go out and socialize, in a social setting, not at my house and not on the phone, with people, at least once a week. Ideally this will be with new and different people than just my dissertation buddy, who is wonderful in every way but we already spend a lot of time together. My Achilles heel --- besides being a bit shy and also cantankerous, which keeps people at their distance --- is that I tend to “punish” myself for a seeming lack of dissertation progress by cutting off the social world. Strange but true, and I wonder if this is at all common. Not only do I not allow myself contact with the outside world on days when I get nothing done, but I ratchet up my goals if the diss work is going well ---- Two paragraphs written! Whoo-hoo! …Two? Only two? You suck, you work so slow! You should have written 10 pages today! Get back to work! And forget about seeing anybody tomorrow --- no talking to a living soul unless you get 20 pages done the next day! … Then I get depressed and isolated, not talking to anyone or going out of the house because I have been “bad.” I start procrastinating more and more and getting less and less done, finally just shutting down and curling up into a ball under the covers. I need to avoid this, and need to remind myself that some socializing will keep me happy and going along as I work. Granted, I can use chatting with people to suck up my available work time like nobody’s business. But I know I need the rejuvenation ---- and chatting with grad students for 20 minutes in the mailroom doesn’t really work to rejuvenate me. So, fun and excitement, here I come!

6. Use a cup, stupid! This last little one is easy. I’ve lived in CA long enough to be a recycling little tree-hugger, and I try to not get bags for purchases or other wasteful things. And further, I’ve brought coffee or tea to school in a thermos or mug for years! But, insidiously, I have fallen into a bad habit of buying coffee at school or the coffee shop right near school. (Latte and a bagel …. mmmm!) I don’t know where my travel mug went, and my beautiful thermos leaks if you put it on its side and try to smuggle it into the library. I’ve been putting off hunting down a travel mug that will hold up to my James Bond-esque smuggler lifestyle, and in the process wasted paper like crazy. But I have new mugs from my budget-breaking Target trip and it should be an easy thing to start carting them around again.

So, ta-da! A shiny new me! With clothes, even! Whaddaya think? Too many resolutions, not enough? Anybody else do this, or have I definitively proven how strange I am?


Dr. Brainiac said...

I'm with you - particularly in the areas of dressing and exercising. It's difficult to get out and socialize because I have The Man and The Girl to consider and our home is 20 miles out in the boonies, but if you aren't similarly encumbered, go for it. The downtime will do wonders for that dissertation simmering on the back burner of your brain.

I just turned in the latest revision of my proposal - let's hope it sticks this time.

gwoertendyke said...

i second all of the above--my own problems of late come with the dressing and socializing....meaning, i have given up trying to look cute lately (maybe i'll put on lipstick) and i am punishing myself by staying indoors too often.

this is bad for self-image which is bad for working. like drsharna, i have people at home who force me to interact once in awhile. go outside indeed! but you sound positive and ready to write your butt off, go for it.

Sisyphus said...

Thanks peeps! I wish hours logged of dissertation-thinking-about-while-exercising translated into pages for me easily, but alas, the only thing it helps is my sanity.

drsharna, adjunct whore, I wish the best for you as well! May you be dressed and cute at least some of the time this coming week!