Performance anxiety

It’s 5:33 am as I start this blog. I’m up early, which seems to have become a habit these days. When I wake up at this hour, I glare out the window for a few minutes, taking stock of things. Today, I will wake up and watch a documentary for the class I teach at 2 pm. Then I’ll read several articles for a seminar. Then I’ll have lunch (oh, you silly life-giving eating). These days I have a constant feeling that I’m forgetting something. I have a to-do list which includes everything from meeting a student to discuss study abroad in Cuba, to buying paper towels, to writing that essay on Lacan about an avant-garde Spanish film. There doesn’t seem to be an end to it this constant stream of to-dos.

If you had given me this list when I was in between jobs in Sweden, I would have gotten excited by it. Stuff to do! But give it to me with less than a month of the semester left and I’ll tell you to shove it….. (you fill in the rest). There were days then in which I longed for a bit of stimulation, now I feel than I am constantly fried. At the end of a long day, I sort of stare at the TV,  unable to think of much else than just staying awake. The Swede told me that it feels like I use 98 percent of my brain cells for school and come back home with 2 percent. It must not be too fun to be with someone who leaves you a few crumbs of interaction. I tell him it’s temporary and he reassures me that he knows this, that he signed on for this Ms.M for life, that there’s nothing to worry about, that the last thing I need to stress about is him (awwwwwwwww…..)

You see, dear readers, next semester is my last semester of classes at the Town of George’s. This doesn’t just end my career as a grad student, it also gives me oodles of time (or rather oodles of flexibility) and a significant reduction in my stress level. Although I may love school, there is a performance element which I think we all get tired of. If there wasn’t this pressure to get A’s (particularly with the academic job market being so difficult and envisioning the need for your transcript looking flawless), I think things would be a lot more humane. But layering performance stress if your own classes, with being the most involved instructor, the most active graduate student in campus organizations, the best conference organizer, the friendliest girl in the department… It’s a lot to handle.

This is not to say that I succeed at all of the above, but I certainly try. I’m sure this need for perfection applies to those readers who are moms, or teachers, or med students. I know we’re all busy, we’re all stressed, we’re all striving for something here. That’s why we’re friends. Anyway, this is all to say that I will be elated when my classes are over and it’s just me, a few classes to teach and the dissertation. I know that that will provide an entire array of new challenges, but at least they will be new ones. Right now, my life-sountrack is on repeat and I’m doing it all over again next semester, for the very last time.

With love at 5:47 from DC,

Ms. M


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