Taming the Paper Dragon: Again

I’ve written before about the challenges of dealing with paper clutter in the house. Well, the last several weeks of gloomy-time meant that I’d been letting all the mail pile up again in a big way — aside from those few essential bills I’d pull out and handle as soon as they arrived. So a big project for me this past weekend and the last couple of evenings has been to once again try to tame the paper dragon.

In addition to handling the most immediate paper accumulation from the last couple months, I also emptied out a couple boxes of longer-term paper accumulation. You know, the kinds of paper piles that built up in other busy times during the last year, but then got shoved into a box in some last-minute cleaning frenzy before an anticipated visitor’s arrival.*

And, after this accomplishment, I am now turning my analytic attention to the other main source of paper influx, aside from catalogs.

My overabundance of magazine subscriptions.

Continue reading “Taming the Paper Dragon: Again”

What I Learned in Grad School

Okay, so the big super-huge work project got even more intense than I’d anticipated, so I went full-out on it till Thursday night. Then, instead of sleeping and catching up on my rest and my writing, Mr. Mezzo and I have been out of town for the past two days celebrating my niece’s graduation. So, suddenly I missed an entire week’s worth of Writing 101 assignments, and the next crop of assignments is due to start up again tomorrow morning.

Now, one thing I learned in grad school is the strategic folly of always trying to go back and play catch-up.

Let’s say you fall behind on your reading for Week 3 in a particularly dense syllabus — like, say, the kind of syllabus where the professor keeps adding new articles to the reading list year after year, without taking away any of the older, less-academically-relevant ones. (Not that I ever had any grad classes like that back in the day. This is all purely a hypothetical exercise…..)

lawrence-wink

Anyhow.

One approach to take to this conundrum would be to start Week 4 by going back to the things you missed in Week 3, hoping to address all of the backlog and all the new assignments. But, if each week’s workload is too robust to be handled in a week, the only thing you gain by that approach is to just get farther and farther behind.

So after one or two courses where I tried to do the virtuous “going back and catching up on everything” routine, I developed a new discipline around falling behind on homework.

Step one for me is to jump right back into the stream at this moment. Hit the reset button, start with the new crop of work, do all of it to the best of my ability — and then, if I do end up with some luxurious extra time after that, only then will I try to go back and fill in what I’ve missed, using my own instincts to triage out what’s most important and what’s most able to be let go.

So, tomorrow I’ll be jumping back into the Writing 101 flow with this coming week’s assignments, and I’ll go back and fill in the missed ones in whatever order I choose to do them.

I have some hope that the work week will be a little quieter than the past fortnight has been. If that turns out to be the case, I may get home early enough to manage a double-posting day or two throughout the week, which would help with the backlog. I also could get creative and see if there’s a way I can kill two assignments with one essay, as it were. Or there may just be an assignment or two that I let slide by, water flowing under the bridge of best intentions, never to be seen or recaptured again.

And I’m okay with that. Aside from the specific workflow strategies I am applying here to my bloggy-life, the main thing I learned in grad school was the complete psychic and energetic uselessness of perfectionism and how pointless it is to do that inner ballet of self-flagellation when one shows one’s humanity by doing an imperfect or fallible thing.

Admittedly, that main lesson only partly sunk in. I keep learning and studying and practicing into that one. Step by step, I continue ever onward — following the trajectory away from self-punishing perfectionism and towards maturity and self-acceptance.

Here, now, with Writing 101, is as good a time to practice that as any.

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Image credit: http://giphy.com/gifs/pzmTB7cwkfx0Q

A Bad Beginning

The Day 4 prompt for Writing 101 is loss. Any kind of loss, from heart-wrenching to flippant. The extra twist: write so that this piece can be the first installment in a 3-part series, as opposed to the “one-off” posts that populate so many blogs. (Now that piece of advice amused me especially, considering the endless ways my posts speak in interwoven dialogue to one another. I think the comments field on JALC have more ping-backs connecting my different posts in conversation with one another than I have actual comments from people!)

During the hours between seeing the prompt and sitting down to write, I wondered whether I’d talk about my father’s death. After all, JALC was birthed during those first months of shock and grief, and we have just recently marked (or not marked, as the case may be) the fifth anniversary of his passing.* Ultimately, that didn’t sense as the way to go.

Instead, a meditation on how I parted ways with graduate school and the ivory tower.

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Sometimes a good ending is prefigured by a bad beginning.

2011LinkAsTarotFoolNot that it seemed like anything bad at the time. Indeed, when I was on the verge of beginning my Ph.D. program, it looked as if — to quote a piece of adolescent dystopia — the odds were ever in my favor.

What’s not to be happy about? An Ivy League program, full graduate fellowship, and I received the offer letter so early in February that even my professors were shocked.  Even while waiting for and weighing the other offers that came, having that one letter in my hands meant that, even if the details hadn’t quite been settled yet, I had my life all wrapped up and figured out.

And there, I believe, lies the root of the problem. I had set myself on a course without enough self-knowledge to know whether it was a path that would truly suit me.

Or.

Did I set myself on this path so much as drifting there? After all, school and academics had been the only thing in my life at which I had truly excelled. During the public school years, the fruits of that natural talent were made bitter by the shames and embarrassments of not being talented at the right sorts of things — the prettiness, social, and popularity scales. Once I was at college, the environment was one that more fully valued my intellectual gifts. Why wouldn’t I think that it was the environment where I was meant to stay for the rest of my lifetime?

And so, whether by aimless drift or by self-deluded intention, I was going to become a professor.

Never mind the amazing naïveté of the choice. My complete lack of understanding about what a professor’s life and work actually are like. My false sense of limitation around how school and classes were the only environment where I could be successful. My immaturity in thinking that I would perceive the cloistered nature of academia as a safe cocoon rather than a strait jacket.

I was going to be a professor. Until I realized that no, I wasn’t. I really wasn’t.

* And there’s two more ping-backs!

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Image credit: http://jennysrp.blogspot.com/2011/04/you-fool.html