Thursday, November 24, 2016
A cleaned up and edited version of what I wrote mid-August:
It always goes like this, doesn’t it? I don’t quite accomplish everything I had intended to accomplish in a given amount of time, so I adjust my goals to be more realistic, and I still find myself far from doing it all. And it’s not even that much. This summer, I thought I had made sure I would get a lot done, a lot of the stuff that matters to me, without taking on too much. I would focus my efforts on the process day to day, I would spend so much time on writing, reading, sewing, and it would inevitably lead to some amount of progress, some minimum amount of product that I could achieve. So I would write at least a certain amount, read at least a certain amount, and sew at least a certain amount. Realistic and measurable. Three goals isn’t too much to work on. Set up for success.
But wait, there’s more. I have school work, college research, college visits, college applications, and the amount of time that all takes isn’t trivial. And things took longer than I had thought, and there were other things I had to do, and also things happen, things get disrupted or interrupted or rearranged, or whatever. I thought I had made liberal estimates on how long the summer homework would take, but even that was too optimistic. That’s how it always happens. That’s how I should expect it to happen. This is life, not a contrived narrative where everyone and everything follows scripted perfection, and the worst problems are healed with happy face band-aids and a mother’s kiss (though the problems I mentioned here aren’t even very bad…they may be mildly frustrating and stressful, but I need to remember that often difficulty and annoying-ness is relative and maybe my reference point is in my own bubble).
Story made quick: junior year burnout. I needed to take a break from school, a sabbatical. I would make sure I completed all the school work, but for a month, I would set aside school, college, and electronics and engage in a period of intense creating (writing, sewing, art, crafts) and filling (myself with inspiration–reading, taking walks, exploring, thinking).
I didn’t actually set aside my electronics…I think I had to check my email for school reasons and similar work-type reasons…then I was behind on homework (according to my planned homework schedule) so I still had to do my homework and it was on the computer, and then I…decided to read some blogs. (I reliably find reading Madalynne and This I Wear a worthwhile experience.)
I read Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott, and it was good. (Yes, I did read other books. For example, I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, and then I sounded like her while writing the second few drafts of my college essay.)
I can’t write a marathon, especially after not writing for so long. If I want to build up my endurance, I need to start from what I can do, start small. It’s not a surprise that I can’t write for hours, that I can’t make a huge complex story take form on the page so soon. So I write, and keep writing, and keep writing. Not all at once, and not for hours without stop. But I try to make it a habit, get down some pages, try to gain some working endurance. Try to get this momentum (sorry, I’m mixing metaphors) and direction so that I can go, not crash, not slow down to a stop.
There are days when I write more than others. There were days I set up hours to write but ran out of things, my brain felt fried. I think some of the best days this summer were when I did multiple different things, thoroughly, well. Some homework, some writing, some exercise… this is what I’ll be doing in the school year. This is not exactly a break, but maybe it will be a sustaining life. Sustainable, and enough to sustain me.
But, actually, I think I have had my break from school? It’s not like I have forgotten that I went to school. But I did other things…I have read a bunch of different books. I have written many pages, even if they weren’t revised into anything great, even if it wasn’t weird [note–11/24/16: I think I was trying to write poetry about the weirdness in life or something. I guess it wasn’t sufficiently weird?] And I have been able to see things from a different side. I didn’t really sew. I wanted to sew out of necessity, anyway. Creating is fun, but there can only be so much that I do. And I got to do the clothes-shopping, so I filled some gaps in my wardrobe and I think the clothes will last a while, even if the clothes weren’t from the best sources or materials. And I did the school work and college apps–that’s a lot. Maybe writing my college essays is not the most glamorous way to spend my time, but it’s good.
So, where am I now?
I’m in senior year. There’s the idea of senior stress: the roller-coaster of senior year. sometimes more than junior year, sometimes less.
I suppose a lot of my life right now is defined by senior stuff–school, college. It does take a lot of time to do my homework and apply to college.
But what about when I write down poetic thoughts, when I write whatever without caring how pretty it looks, when I start to put the scraps of my thoughts together into what emerges as a piece of writing? What about when I spend hours reading about environmental and social issues, about positive feedback cycles that perpetuate climate change or the implications of Trump’s presidency or Standing Rock or how to think about trees, and realize that I will never know enough about the world? What about when I fell over in ballet class while attempting a pirouette on a weird day, or when I was complimented by my teacher for the successful execution of a fouette turn on a different day? What about the hours I spent this week and last week, walking around the school or neighborhood, picking up trash and wondering why it even exists? Are these things part of being a high school senior? Are these things part of being a teenager? I think what I see, I see through my eyes, which are inevitably influenced by my place in society and therefore my grade in what school and my age.
At school there has been some mention of “senioritis” and “senior slide.” I kind of get it now–how you react when something difficult is almost over, but it’s not over. When you’re either going to crash or burn out. (Or when you experience that feeling after a big test. Though if you want to know what I did after finishing an AP exam last year, it involved studying for the next test. After lunch and a cookie dessert.) But I want to remember what I knew so strongly (last year, the senior slide exhibited in my senior acquaintances bothered and confused me): senioritis doesn’t make sense to me. Life is education. I do not do what I do so that I have a chance at getting into a special college. I do what I do because I want to make the most of what I have in the way that I can (which is continuously improving). And I chose the colleges to apply to because I think they will give me the best opportunities for me to do this. I am scared sometimes, that walls around me will fall to expose that I’m not good enough–that I’m not smart or good at anything, that I only occasionally appear smart when I work really hard. But other times, I think, isn’t that the important part–isn’t what you do with what you have more important than possessing un-stretched ability?
So, senior year. A lot of work. A lot of stress. But also, a lot of fun. No, not the stress. The stress is not fun. I mean my homework and college applications can be fun, and writing can be fun, and ballet and other activities can be fun, and taking walks can be fun, and cleanups…cleanups are fun with buddies. The buddies part is fun. The trash part is sad.