There are few things more fulfilling in life than getting good work done. I love the feeling of accomplishment that comes from turning in an assignment or getting to the end of a book. It’s almost as if there’s a built-in self-congratulatory mechanism hard-wired into our brains or something (I’ll have to ask my wife, the bad-ass neuroscientist, if this is true). I feel a sense of accomplishment in even writing that sentence, as it had not three but four hyphenated words in it. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that before.
On the other hand, I also find an immense pleasure in procrastinating. I have two very large papers due in the next couple of weeks, only one of which is anywhere near completion (full disclosure: I haven’t even started the second one yet). And yet I’m sitting here typing away, apparently impervious to the demands on my time that only a week ago seemed like a crushing burden. To be fair, the due date for one of my papers was pushed back by a week, so I do actually have quite a bit more time to complete it. But that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be pushing myself just as hard as I did near the beginning of the semester, where any down time was reading time, where deadlines were actually life-threatening, and where anxiety constantly spurred me to work straight through weekends.
It could be that getting this close to the end of the semester I find myself comparing what I have left to do with the overwhelming amount of work I have already done. I haven’t actually counted my “pages read” for the semester, but as I have now read a total of 15 books averaging 200 pages, 3000 pages for the semester isn’t a terrible estimate. 3000 pages! That’s both insane and impressive, far beyond what I imagined I could handle. The “measly” 250 pages I have left to read for the semester seems like a drop in the bucket, like a non-entity, like an afternoon’s respite. This isn’t true, of course, but it’s a nice little flight of fancy to indulge in on a Friday afternoon near the end of the semester. Writing 20 pages, on the other hand, is no small feat, and I should be scared about that. But I’m not. Why? I have no idea. Maybe because it’s a historiography paper (a review of current historical trends and opinions rather than in-depth research). Maybe because it’s not due for two weeks. Or maybe because I’m anxiety-ied out.
At any rate, I’m looking forward to the semester being over, but I’m also enjoying these few, stolen moments of respite from a very busy (and scarily short-feeling) semester. I never thought reading the news could feel like such a treat.