Wednesday, April 23, 2008

An afternoon pause

Today I had to grade like the wind. Remember all that procrastinating going on last week? Well, I had promised my students that I would pass their exams back to them today and of course I didn't start grading until - well, today. So I had my work cut out for me, but I am proud to say that I finished with two hours to still prep for class, and even a half hour or so to write up a quickie blog post. Go team me!!

On a completely different topic - I hadn't realized until today how much a creature of habit I have become. One of the reasons that I chose academia as a field for my career was because I used to dread having to be at work at the same time every morning. I would go to work (when I held a 9-5 job right after undergrad) and get dizzy with a sense of dread, and yes this was a literal existential feeling of dread. Like Jean Paul Sartre writes in Nausea, I literally became ill as I became to fear this office being the place that would define my existence. Yes, I used to be very sensitive, physically speaking. Sartre's nausea was something that I too experienced for a good two years or so... waking up every morning scared of living - so scared of my routine as if it marked the death of my existence. But then again, one of the reasons why the nausea was so strong was because of the sensation of claustrophobia. Although I knew that I was scared shitless of routinization - I could think of absolutely no other viable options because I was too frightened. And fear of course is paralyzing like nothing else.

So anyhow, here I am 6 or 7 years later. I have not only shaken the nausea, but have fallen into a routine - one that makes me happy. Today I woke up, showered, got dressed, went to Cream to grade, ate lunch quickly and was in my office by 1 pm. Then at approximately 5pm after my office hours but before my 5:30 class, I pick up an afternoon coffee iced nonfat mexican mocha - easy chocolate (i know, I'm a pain in the ass). But today, the barista asked me if the amount of chocolate was okay because she is the one that always makes them for me and wasn't sure if I was happy with the amount of chocolate. So I laughed, when I realized, wow - I'm here routinely enough that she recognizes my ridiculous order. It made me realize how I've slipped into new habits, but ones that don't make me feel sick to my stomach.

There was a time in my life when Kafka, Thomas Mann, and Sartre were authors who really spoke to me as I grappled to understand the purpose of daily life. But now, I have found new authors that satisfy my spiritual needs. Instead of existential nihilism and dread, I have found pleasure in stopping to reflect upon each day as unique no matter how routine it seems to be. Taking a moment out of the day to reflect graciously on all that you have, and to revel in the existence of just that moment helps your routine (even if you do the same things) to not feel the same at all.

1 comment:

stu said...

The difference, presumably, is that this is now a routine of your choice. You could break it if you wished, but doing so just to prove that you don't have a routine would probably be as problematic as sticking to the old routine you didn't like.