Thought Pattern

Have you ever tried to pull a tractor tire behind you?

I haven’t either. But judging from the sweat running down peoples’ faces when they attempt it (or the blood-hue of their faces), it’s hard work.

I don’t feel like that’s what I’m attempting when I work. I feel like I’m trying to move a mountain with my mind. And while I’m trying to move a mountain there’s an hourglass with sand in it that’s steadily trickling down and down and down to gather into an ever-growing heap of sand at the bottom.

Meanwhile every member of my family and close friends are watching to see how I will do at the end of this time period: will I pass or fail the equivalency exams? I know that most people expect me to fail. I am trying to learn a lifetime of history and literature in a month. (It used to be three. I wasted two months of that and only a few pebbles of the mountain have been moved.) I haven’t written Romanian more than the requisite birthday cards and Christmas wishes to grandparents and cousins. (And the odd correspondance of informal conversation.) I haven’t read in Romanian, because it was always harder than English and besides– my life was going to be in America. Right?

Wrong.

So. Four months ago, like any 17-18 year old, I could take on the world. Of course I could learn all this stuff. Aren’t I the smartest person… EVER? Never mind that everyone thinks I’m crazy. I’ll show them.

And I’m not sure what happened after that. These are partial theories:

  1. I realized this is hard work and simply gave up.
  2. I realized this is hard work and also realized that I don’t particularly like work. I like fun.
  3. I realized all this hard work is a mere prerequisite to the harder work that comes if I pass these tests. Followed by more hard work for the rest of my life. In short:
  4. I realized that I will have to grow up.

Growing up is SCARY.

But, okay. I’ve done scary things before. Right? I went around the world, that’s scary. No, it wasn’t. My parents were with me. Neither of them would ever let anything happen to me. I’ve bought things at a supermarket and gone to the bank to deposit Dad’s checks. And I’ve gone to tests and sat in reaally quiet waiting rooms where no one talks and you feel like everyone’s staring at you. I’ve performed in plays. But those aren’t really scary. They’re mildly exhilarating. Actually quite fun. Easy. Your whole life does not lie in the balance. They don’t mean hours of trying to move a mountain with your mind.

But, like any logical person, I also realize one important thing:

  1. I won’t be able to hide behind my parents and I’m not particularly eager to marry right out of high school and be a stay-at-home mom. (The stay-at-home mom part (the full-time mom part, actually), is a wonderful fantasy of mine. I’ve never changed a diaper or slept less than 4 hours weeks in a row. But moving on.)

Hence, I need to grow up. In this society, that means:

  1. Get a job.
  2. (possibly anticipated by ‘go to college/school and get a degree.’)

Since most degree-less-jobs sound terrible (my idea of degree-less jobs= minimum wage. I don’t want to change this perception at this time. It would give me an out I don’t need), the only solution is to get a degree.

I examined the options. Medicine (it WOULD be medicine, too… the highest-workload-ever job) or teaching ended up being the only two options (for me). But teaching without being able to control EVERYTHING would drive me batty. And having a kid for only a year would drive me batty. And having to rely on parents and other teachers and principals would drive me batty. So medicine it was. And I’m actually quite happy of that fact.

So. Medicine.

Lovely. 10-12 years of schooling. Great paycheck. Enormous schooling costs. Highly useful profession. Very taxing on the memory.

I always had a good memory. The schooling costs will be paid off with the paycheck. I get to cure people. I could travel and volunteer. (And isn’t it just hilarious that I don’t particularly LIKE travel and yet it’s a fantastic dream?). 10-12 years in school learning something new every day will be… interesting.

I don’t even have to worry about getting a job at the same time because my parents are European and thus insist on paying for my room and board.

Fairyland, right?

Except for one thing. I don’t particularly want to grow up. At the same time, I do. I just don’t want to have to deal with the messy parts: getting out of my comfort zones. Taking tests I’m not likely to pass (because the state tests, the SAT, and the ACT are all basic math and logic and grammar skills. And as long as you can spell correctly and form sentences you’re going to pass any essay that you need to pass), because strangely enough, the SAT and ACT don’t guarantee your getting into the best college around. Apparently you need community service. AP classes. Regents scores. All things that MY family didn’t think about until I was in 10th grade and we were planning to go around the world. And even then we didn’t worry about it, because… how many 16-17 year old girls go around the world for 15 months? Any college would be rabid to have me. Right?

Possibly. We’re a very confident family, led solidly by my father, who, I think, has never once in his life experienced self-doubt or doubt in his children. (And if he has, you wouldn’t notice it.) Followed closely by my mother, who has experienced self-doubt, but never doubt in her children’s abilities.

Self Doubt

And then there’s me. Unlike my sister, who has wanted to be just about everything under the sun (archaelogist, nurse (not doctor), artist, rock star), and my brother (who expressed an interest for  bikes (not motorcycles– bikes) and animal photography), I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life: marry well and have kids and stay at home.

By ‘well’ I mean the love of my life who would be able to take care of us in comfort and would love me and with whom I could have long talks or just sit in silence.

I was born in the wrong century. (At the same time I wasn’t, because I love beating things up and would be bored stiff sitting at home or going to balls or stitching samplers). But in regards to jobs, I was definitely born in the wrong century.

I’m a practical person. The scenario in italics is not likely to happen. Since ‘comfort’ has changed to ‘extreme comfort’ and means a fast internet connection and a mac laptop and iPod (not an iPad. I never liked it), the man in question must be rich. So, therefore, I would need to be in an environment where most people are on their way to a highpaying job. That means college. That also means a major I can stand and would be interested in doing for most of my life should the ‘love of my life’ scenario not work out and I stay mostly-single for the rest of my life.

And again, medicine.

And I’ve taken you through a long, convoluted thought process. My long, convoluted thought process that has been going on since I came downstairs to the kitchen when I was 14 and said:

“I just figured out what I’m going to do with my life! There are three high-paying jobs, right? A lawyer, a businessman, and a doctor! Well, I can’t imagine fighting with people all my life, and I don’t want to stake my life savings on an idea and have to think up ways to sell things to people… so the only possible solution is… a doctor!”

And I was very proud of myself that I’d finally concretely decided what I wanted to do.

And I’ve come to the realization that medicine is the only thing I would be able to do with my life, because it’s the only one that makes sense. Why?

  1. Physical, creative, sporadic-paycheck work is not for me. I don’t like uncertainty and I don’t particularly like getting sweaty. 
  2. I’m a minimalist and have been all my life.  I am the neatest person in my family for one simple reason. I have an amazing ability to stick to one thing for weeks. The best thing about going around the world was that I could literally live with less than 80 objects. 30, if I lived in a warm climate and had only the basic necessities (clothes, sleeping bag, laptop, toiletries). Added to that number would be furniture. But I don’t even need a lot of space. I could live in a trailer with no problem whatsoever. Provided the trailer was clean. And had a pretty interior. I’m also practical. Therefore: if you don’t need something, and I know you don’t need it and deep down you know you don’t need it, why on earth would I be a business person and try to sell you something you don’t need? Example: light up eraser, new clothes, perfume, a movie, a book. (Movies and books are necessary. But there’s something called the library for books, and movies are either good or bad. If they’re good, I usually want there to be a good book version so I can get inside the character’s heads. Should the library not have the movie in question, find a friend who’s willing to give you their copy.)
  3. I don’t like putting myself on the line. It’s scary. Failure is scary. It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve told myself failure isn’t failure, but an opportunity to learn. My own personality comes back to haunt me. I laugh at people when they can’t do something correctly after having it explained to them and having ample opportunity to learn. I do, and I’m not proud of it.

And, for the third time… medicine.

It was supposed to be… easy. I’m good at memorization, I’m good at putting things together. I’m not squeamish. I find it interesting. Mostly.

So what’s the trouble? Why can’t I sit down and do five, or ten, or fifteen hours of work to study for these equivalency exams and these admissions exams?

Fear.

I think it’s fear of success. Fear of losing my entire life to medicine. To not having the freedom to step back every once in a while and say, “You know what? I’ve had enough. I need a break. Give me a week, and I’ll be back and ready to work.”

Followed quickly by fear of failure after the initial succes. Fear that once I get there, I’ll have wasted all this time only to realize that actually… I don’t want to do medicine. (Never mind that I’ve stated three times in the past 30 minutes that it’s medicine and only medicine. Never mind that I probably will end up throwing at least part of this hard work out the window because a stay-at-home mom does not also practice at the same time.) Or maybe, I’ll pass the equivalency exams but fail the admissions. (Unlikely. Admissions is multiple choice.)

Once, when I was at the pool, I went to the diving board to dive. I looked down. The water looked 10 feet away. I asked the lifeguard if I could do a dive off the edge of the pool. She said no. So I chickened out and did an awkward cannon ball instead. While in the shallow end, I looked over to the diving board at a time when it was still. The bottom of the board was only two feet away. My 5 feet of height had simply added to that, and looking down into 16 feet of water had made the distance ‘head->water’ seem even greater. Two feet, I realized. Two feet was nothing. Two feet was easy. I went up to the diving board and executed a perfect dive. I keep waiting for that realization to happen to me. I keep searching for that realization.

If I fail the equivalency, I’ll just go next year and take it again. And I’ll simply end up with the same workload a year later. So what’s the problem? There’s no problem. Why?

  1. Medicine is the vocation I want.
  2. It’s also the only vocation I’m likely to want to do better at for a very, very long time.
  3. I don’t want kids for at least four more years. And there’s no way to find anyone to have kids with without getting out of this small town.
  4. My fears are  baseless. Failing the equivalency is unlikely to surprise anyone. Passing the equivalency will simply thrust me into something I have to face anyway. That, if I’m honest, I want to face.

Therefore, my crazy procrastination has no basis.

And yet… I procrastinate.

Why?

The things I most procrastinate on are:

  1. Writing essays. Because I’m antsy about my parents reading what I write. And they’re the only people who can score my work.
  2. Looking up more facts about a topic. Because usually it requires deciphering things and figuring things out and it comes right after a ‘long, hard’ bout with the subject in question and detracts from ‘free time.’

And how do I procrastinate?

  1. Romance novels.
  2. Howrse.com

Because they’re easy, brainless things that I cannot fail at and that provide a small measurement of minor emotional brightness in a mostly boring backdrop.

It’s like Twitter and Facebook for the rest of the world. EXCEPT THAT: I’m bored to pieces with both Howrse and romance novels.

Therefore:

  1. Neither of my procrastinated-on topics are actually all that hard. An essay is written one sentence at a time. A researched topic becomes fascinating.
  2. Neither of my procrastination activities are actually all that interesting. Or rewarding.

It stands to reason, therefore, that

  1. I should be absolutely fascinated by my studies. I have the country with quite possibly one of the most fascinating cultures and history in the world. We are, like everyone else, unique. Our music is amazing, our traditions are amazing, (and I could go on). The human body is extraordinary. The world is extraordinary. (Physics).

And I am fascinated by my studies. Whenever I sit down and manage to put my head to figuring out what the convoluted Romanian sentences say.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the ‘inventor’ of flow, states that there is a difference between enjoyment and pleasure:

Enjoyment, on the other hand, is not always pleasant, and it can be very stressful at times. A mountain climber, for example, may be close to freezing, utterly exhausted, and in danger of falling into a bottomless crevasse, yet he wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Sipping a piña colada under a palm tree at the edge of the turquoise ocean is idyllic, but it just doesn’t compare to the exhilaration he feels on the windswept ridge.

Whereas pleasure is pleasant and isn’t stressful, up until you realize you’ve been taking part in so much pleasure that you’ve never even looked up at the mountain, and your whole life has been wasted without ever seeing the view at the top.

Reading romance novels is pleasureful. Tackling a literature essay is enjoyment. (and half of me cannot believe the other half of me just said that.)

Enjoyment vs. Pleasure

Half of me right now is saying: “Give up pleasure and just focus on the enjoyment!”

The other half is digging its heels in and saying: “Pleasure? NO! My life would suck without pleasure! I’d collapse into a little tiny heap of nothingness without it!”

And the enjoyment half says: “You had your turn, and you’re just as stressed as you were before. Now we do it my way.”

The bigger, badder, more confident pleasure half says: “You’re not going to last a day doing this. You’ll be begging to come back and take pleasure, not enjoyment.”

And the smaller, not-so-confident enjoyment half (on whose shoulders rest my life choices) says: “Well, try it my way a while, at least.”

And the enjoyment half has only a few hours before the pleasure half butts in, before the actual achievement can be achieved, and says: “Alright, done.”

It’s like someone grabbing the TV remote from a documentary before the it finishes and changing to a rerun of an old TV show. You don’t get to have closure with that documentary.

Conclusion

I want to take enjoyment in my life. But I don’t particularly want to give up pleasure. And I have no idea what to do with myself or what to decide.

But, I’ve dragged you through 2800 words of my convoluted thought pattern, and I owe it to myself (and to you) to reach a conclusion. I refuse to be like the yeti documentaries that drag you through 60 minutes of riduculousness and commercials and at the end say, “Well, despite all those red herrings and our theories, we still have no idea if yetis exist or not.”

In the long term, enjoyment will prove more bountiful. In the short term, it’s pleasure that will be more ‘useful.’

Therefore it stands to reason that while I may want to have pleasure, the best thing for me is enjoyment.

I choose enjoyment.

I choose to pass the equivalency exams.

I choose to let go of the fear of success.

I choose to let go of the fear of failure.

I choose to release the quasi-need of having pleasure all the time.
I choose to work.

And there we go. I hope that the past 3000 words have been at least semi-enjoyable, mildly educational, and emotionally fulfilling at the end. I am ocularly exhausted, mentally incapacitated for the moment, and physically sore from sitting up straight for so long while typing this.

Good night! I hope your choices are easier than mine!

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One response

  1. Pingback: The Problem of Math, Sleep, and Keyboards | mino wrimos

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