Thursday, April 19, 2007

Carrot on a stick

This is the only coherent sentence in this post; you have been warned.

I'm spending the next 18 days walking through checkboxes towards a carrot on a stick because I need to graduate. On a very raw, fundamental level, this bothers me immensely. On the other hand, I'm walking towards the carrot now. I feel guilty about this at the same time as I know it's the right - or at least the "right" - thing to do.

Actually, I'm walking towards the carrot because Gill says I need to graduate, and I believe that my advisor's counsel is probably much wiser than my youthful frustration is making it out to be at the moment. Right now I'm too mad (at myself, mostly) to be rational about much. Intellectually, I know he's absolutely right and that this would be the stupidest time in the world to stop trying. But in that flaming pit in the center of my chest, there's a voice that's been repressed for 20 years and wants to say "screw diplomas; school should be about learning, not ticking off points on a nice big chart." But that's using radical ideologies as a convenient excuse for practical slacking, and that'd just be dumb of me.

I think my idealism switch exploded and kept - is keeping - me from getting things done properly. It exploded in part because a lot of crappy recent events have piled right behind each other (my grandfather's heart attack, losing 3 days of work to a really depressing funeral, my car getting wrecked and having to walk everywhere until it's fixed), because I rode my life too close to the edge of the limits of what I could handle and wasn't able to cope with the unexpected crashes, because my coping mechanisms for life are outdated and need upgrading, because of a lot of things.

I'm still operating in part on my strategy for the last 1.5 decades, which can roughly be described as "learn everything fast enough ahead of actually arriving at the class that it's all easy anyway, and last-minute your deliverables creatively enough that they do well." Unlike what seems to be the usual trajectory for Olin students, I didn't crash and discover my limitations during my first year. Nope. I'm 7 semesters late for that, and there are no contingencies for seniors discovering that well crap, it's not easy any more. At least I'm finding my limitations in college instead of while... I'm doing open-heart surgery or something that actually counts.

But this technically "counts." Diploma diploma diploma. I know why I "need" one, but why should I need one? I know I need to sell out and buy into the systems I want to change so that I can change them more effectively from the inside, and I know that's a fact of how human society works that I probably can't ever change (you never know) but it doesn't mean I have to like it (and I don't; I really don't).

The perfect is the enemy of the good. "It doesn't matter if you do it well as long as you get it done." This eats at me. I want to take pride in everything I do. I want to release finished results that I deem worthy of calling mine. I don't need to stop taking so much pride in my work, but I need to take on less work so I can pursue the work I do to the level where I am able to take pride in it. I've been cutting meetings and tasks and work and turning down offers for everything like a churning rotary trimmer whacking pretty flowers down left and right.

At some point in my life, I should probably work as a field applications engineer or some other form of highly educated tech support. In this hypothetical scenario, I would be the best goddamn tech support ever, because I would be so obsessed with helping customers that all the responses would just be way over and beyond. And I would get fewer tickets done than my peers and consequently less pay and promotions goodness, but ridiculously good reviws from the few folks I did get to help out. And I'd be less effective than I could be, and screw myself over completely because I want to help people too much.

Because helping other people is a lot easier than focusing on your own damn problems, isn't it?

Bedtime. Then wake up and work more. Good donkey.

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