On the Grind, and Being Without It

Life is weird right now. I have a significant amount of work to do. The real problem is not the work itself, but the lack of any schedule. I used to believe I was super organized and disciplined. I wrote my lesson plans, graded papers, did homework, wrote papers, submitted paperwork, kept religious track of my calendar. My Mondays through Fridays, and most Saturdays, were scheduled if not to the hour then at least to the event or “thing” that needed doing. There was always a “to do” list. Always. I had to stay organized, productive and keep up….or drown. Not any more.

IMG_5818Right now I have one due date. June 1. Four term papers are due that day. On June 6, I will present my preliminary dissertation research. Once those papers are complete I will have until I return Stateside in August to research and write my culminating dissertation. Every day and every hour between now and then is up to me and has been since the end of term in late March. I realize many of you are rolling your eyes at me and thinking “I WISH!” (believe me at the end of last school year I would’ve rolled my eyes at me too!). I’m amazingly grateful for this change of pace in life; however, self-imposed discipline is way harder than externally imposed deadlines. SO MUCH HARDER.

The natural human inclination toward sloth is real folks. I thought pulling myself out of bed for my 5am alarm was tough. Self-motivation is hard in a whole other way. We all know the feeling of doing something because you HAVE to. You drag yourself from bed to go to work, even when you are exhausted because the bills need to be paid so you need that job. The list of responsibilities and burdens in adult life, the things we HAVE to do, is seemingly endless. I’d been in the grind so long that I no longer realized how deeply entrenched I was in the rut of life.

This year has been grind-less. The stress of papers and the process of writing is intense. But in terms of grind. Yeah, no. Therein lies the problem. The grind has been my Enforcer; my ever-watchful companion making sure I remain productive. Intense schedules place demands on time, energy and resources. Without those demands I have realized just how undisciplined I truly can be. It is astounding.

The freedom of my current schedule, or rather lack thereof, means I can be more spontaneous. Which is great for exploring London, and indulging my inner night owl. It is not so great for accomplishing schoolwork. It also means I have to actively focus on being productive, because it’s far to easy to just let hours slip away. There is a reason that “I should be writing” is a whole class of meme’s unto itself.

I wouldn’t trade this time for anything and I’m relishing every day. But it has taught me an unexpected lesson about myself. The pride I took in productivity and organization was just a false front. An externally imposed effect of my chosen life grind. When left to my own devices I’m a lazy bum. An unproductive day is fine occasionally. When you are buried deep in life’s grind a day of nothing is a mentally lifesaving necessity.

But without that Enforcer – the schedule – breathing down my neck I struggle with discipline. I can’t wait until I find some motivation. I can’t wait to do work until I “feel” like doing it. Discipline is an internal mental muscle that needs exercise to be strong. No external responsibility truly replaces it.

Now pardon me…I’ve got books that need reading and essays that need writing.

 

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