Stories on the edge of familiarity

The Mathematics of Rest

Doing math calms me down.

Yes, you can run screaming from me, an artsy person who enjoys math. Have I ever mentioned to you that long division relaxes me? Oh, the screams got louder? Just wait ’til you hear about the time I calculated compound interest by hand. The long way. Hehehe.

But, seriously, math really does relax me. I don’t know why. Blame it on my dad. He likes math, too.

It’s also a super useful tool in figuring out what the heck is going on with your life because it, unlike your brain, works in an entirely objective manner.

Like, lately, I’ve been feeling like I really. Just. Need. More. Time. But, since this isn’t the Harry Potter books and I don’t have a Time Turner, actually getting more than 24 hours in my day isn’t going to be happening anytime soon. Which means that, if I’m having that feeling, either this is just a rough patch that I’ll have to bear through for the time being, or I’m not using my time particularly wisely. Since I’ve been telling myself the former for about a year and there aren’t any signs of things slowing up (in fact, the moment the planets align such that slowing up is possible, I dump more work on myself. Fun, that), I opted for the latter explanation today and decided to figure out what was going on.

Enter math.

First, I picked the most important “work” things I do, and figured out how long each of them take each week:

I work 12 hours a week, attend class 10-10.5 hours a week (depending on how long one runs), do readings for said classes 8 hours a week, work on assignments ~3 hours a week, write an email for Backstage Passes for 1 hour a week, spend ~3 hours a week writing a blog post, and (every other week) spend 3-6 hours making a comic strip.

Then I added them:

The total (when there isn’t a comic strip to do) is 36.5 hours a week.

With a comic strip, the total is 40.5 – 43.5 hours a week. And I can’t predict which it will be. And the only breaks I consistently get are the two half-hour ones when I’m working at my actual job. Because I apparently suck at giving myself breaks. Even for food.

Note that this does not include: redesigning my website or editing my book, both of which are highly time-intensive projects. And yet, I’ve been trying to do those on top of this 36.5+ hour work week. Plus, the weeks when I make a comic strip? No wonder I’m so exhausted! The fact that I’ve been taking Fridays off is probably the only reason I haven’t completely burnt out by now.

If I were a corporation, worker me would have quit by now. Or spoken up, complained to CEO me for the workload, and for driving worker me so hard, never being happy with the work that’s done because the only focus is on the work that “should” have been done already.

Ok, I guess the tiredness, unusual lack of motivation, and the feeling like things aren’t quite right a lot of the time is worker me’s way of telling CEO me that things just aren’t working out, and that something needs to change before worker me really does quit and CEO will just have to deal with the resulting burnout, tough cookies.

I mean, there’s a difference between working hard and… this. No wonder I’ve had barely any time to do things with friends. Or even watch a movie.

Thank you, math, for the much-needed wakeup call.

New Plan

I’m going to write another blog post later that’ll get a bit more into this (and a great way to deal with it and similar issues… permanently), but I wanted you to know a bit about why I work myself this hard. Like. Always.

It’s because there’s this part of me that’s been, for a long time, absolutely convinced that I never give enough. That if I don’t live up to these super high standards, people will be disappointed in me, that they’ll say bad things about me because I didn’t do what I said I’d do. I thought that I never gave enough, that my work was never good enough, that I was never kind enough, selfless enough, smart enough, funny enough, whatever enough. And I use the past tense, but I really mean the present tense because I still haven’t dealt with this properly yet.

What’s really weird, though, is how positive I was about the truth of these things. And here is where the past tense really is past tense, because it’s like I woke up or something. Or have been waking up over the past few months. Or whatever. Because all these negative thoughts and words that I really, truly, thought people were directing at me or would direct at me if (fill in the blank) are just in my head.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew this. But I didn’t know it. All of a sudden, I just looked at all these nasty things, expectations I could never live up to and punishments for not living up to them, and realized: Whoa. Dude. No-one thinks that. I’ve been thinking it. In fact, I’ve been thinking it so loudly and so constantly that I thought it was real.

I cannot emphasize enough how real I thought this all was.

But it’s not.

And maybe it was the math, or maybe it’s been this slow awakening process, or maybe it was a lovely encouraging email I received today, I don’t know. All I know is that I see it now for what it is.

It’s such a weird feeling, but in such a good way.

And so, as a result, I have a new plan, a better plan than my original plan for the year.

  1. I’m throwing out all the dates I picked for my projects. I still want to get all those projects done, but the dates just aren’t looking realistic anymore.
  2. Until the semester is over, my primary responsibility is to be a student and to get the best grades I can with the resources I have.
  3. Anything extra will happen in bits and pieces, if and when I have some space to do a little work on them.
  4. As the next few months go, I’ll pay attention to what I’m really able to get done in a day, a week, a month, while also feeling energized and while also having time for the things that make life worth it (like spending time with cool people that I like and/or doing cool things that I like).
  5. When I have a better handle on what I’m capable of and how I can best give, I’ll do the dates thing again. This time, they’ll be realistic ones.

Obviously, not every week will be brilliant. But I want my average weeks to be on a level that more than makes up for the lack of brilliance during those times when life gets in the way.

I think that’s workable. What do you think? Does this all sound familiar?

 

(Also, shout out to Shanna Mann for her Practical Planning course, which has given me verbiage like worker me and CEO me, as well as the idea that, since we get more average weeks anyways, why not focus on improving the average, rather than the brilliant? This course is, like, changing my life or something. I’ll have to do my weekly review and see. :P :) )

(Shanna! What are you doing to me? I’m making jokes about weekly reviews, except I totally mean them seriously. !!!!!)

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