I am toying with my list of New Year's Resolutions. I'm not entirely sure that having them is such a good idea -- if I get too ambitious, that's effectively just a list of ways I am scheduled to have failed at life by December 31, 2013.

I know myself too well to try anything like "get up before noon every day like a normal human" or "stop spooking people inadvertently", at least. Over the years, I have come to recognize that feeling that means that no matter how hard I push myself to do a certain thing, it is simply not going to happen. It's not even a declaration of rebellion. It's more a sort of prognostication. That feeling means that regardless of how much I try to push, wheedle, talk, trick or bribe myself to do whatever it is by whatever the arbitrary deadline is, I will just keep getting more and more anxious about it and generally overwhelmed, and then the deadline will pass, and the whatever will not have been done. And if I keep trying to force it, neither will anything else, because I'll have tried to prioritize the Thing I Must Do above all else, and since I don't do that, I won't do any of the things farther down on the list either.

It also works as an indicator for whether I'm too sick to go out or to work, handily enough. I'm not good at figuring out when I shouldn't be walking around -- I'm stubborn and I recognize that I'm a whiny bitch when subject to even a minor sniffle, so the mere disinclination to do anything other than sit in bed and blow my nose and feel sorry for myself is a sensitive test, but not a very specific one. The 'this is not going to happen' feeling is qualitatively different, and I have learned to just give up and call in as soon as I'm sure that's what it is. Particularly after the time I spent living with a roommate who was actually worse at judging her own health than I was, whom I once had to force to go to the ER after she had been so violently ill for so long that she was passing out and seizing, and hadn't even bothered telling anyone. (The first time she did it, I took her shoes so she couldn't try to go to work before I could call her boss and tell him she wouldn't be in. After the second time, I said, "Find your pants and coat and phone someone for a ride, or I will stand over you until you do it again and call 911 while you can't stop me." A very effective threat, considering we lived literally right behind an ambulance station at the time.) Luckily, they turned out to be vasovagal pseudoseizures, triggered by dehydration -- a thing which is unlikely to cause permanent harm, and is easy to fix when you are in the emergency department, where they have saline IVs.

The Flagstaff ER was pretty much the only place I've ever found doctors who actually listened to what I said, but I am loath to try my luck in Boston. So I try not to make myself collapse.

One of the things I contemplate every year is going back to graduate school. Usually I give it up as a bad job, on account of a total lack of money. I got FAFSA money all through my undergraduate career, and the federal government has invented entirely new useless sorts of paperwork specifically in order to make sure that you really really really want your education money. Not unlike a lot of undergrad classes, in its way. NAU's policy was to schedule the freshman core classes for its physics degree at ass o'clock in the morning, and move the lectures progressively later and later as you progressed. The idea was to weed out people who didn't want to be a physicist badly enough to be anywhere other than bed at eight in the morning, and it worked, as attested to by the fact that I do not hold a BS in physics.

Sociology was much nicer. Social scientists on the whole do not appear in public before about 10am, and also are not much fussed about technical requirements like attendance, or actually using the textbook. I had one professor, teaching a class called "Crime, Law & Society", who gave us the study guide for the first exam with the syllabus on the first day, the study guide for the second exam upon receipt of the first one, the third guide with the second exam, and just before reading week he sent out our current grades and told us that if we were happy with what we had we didn't have to bother showing up for the final. I think he was hoping that just once, all of us would spontaneously decide to cut class at the same time, and he'd get a three hour lunch. Great guy -- he told us stories about working with juvenile delinquents, and getting them to play Scrabble with the promise that they could use any word they wanted as long as they spelled it correctly.

Part of the reason I keep putting off grad school applications is that I wanted to wait long enough that my portfolio and interview count much more heavily than my grades. My GPA in my actual major (and my focus, and my minor) was quite respectably high, and I aced a completely random and unconnected series of electives I signed up for mostly to collect credits, but there are a couple of other things I flunked repeatedly and finally gave up on. Calculus, for one. I love math, but I hate math classes with a burning passion. I do very poorly in courses which have a very rigid sequence, particularly if there's also a very rigid timetable involved. I retain random stuff by hooking other random stuff to it, which I can't do if I'm forced to only pay attention to one thing at a time, with excruciatingly long waits in between for the rest of the class to catch up.

When I was very young I had what would today be called an IEP (individualized education program -- they vary by need, but mine mostly consisted of handing me a book, leaving me either alone or alone with a tutor to learn what was in it, and then handing me the next book when I finished that one), which was unfortunately dropped when I changed schools. I can pinpoint the exact moment when I stopped giving a shit about how I did in school, and it was when I realized that they were no longer going to reward me for learning something by teaching me something else. And were in fact going to yell at me if I asked questions about stuff we hadn't  yet gotten to in the book. The only two language classes I have ever done poorly in were Arabic and Navajo in college. The Navajo instructor had been poached from teaching kindergarteners on the reservation, knew nothing about linguistics as either an art or a science, and insisted on teaching everything by rote; the Arabic teacher meant well, but was dedicated to following our textbook, which did not use a romanization system, taught the alphabet two letters at a time, gave no grammar at all until the alphabet was done, and wanted us to learn set phrases strictly aurally while refusing at any point to write out any word that contained letters we didn't yet know. Unfamiliar speech is hash to me until I see how it's written -- on particularly bad days, sometimes familiar languages turn into noise as well -- so both of these were hellish disasters.

(The Arabic class was also at 9am. I signed up for it anyway, because I really wanted to learn a Semitic language, and I probably would have been fine despite how much time I spent not attending if it had been taught like my other ones were, i.e., with written examples and grammar. I also failed to attend my German courses a fair amount, despite liking both the class and the teachers. Somewhere around the end of the first quarter of 101, someone asked me how long I'd lived in Germany. I've never been.)

The problem of losing things if I don't get them tied to other things quickly enough is persistent and I assume it'll be lifelong. I compensate largely by front-loading a huge amount of information when I'm learning something on my own, and by taking unfair advantage of a memory that is eidetic in several different modes. (The eidetic memory still doesn't help with unconnected ends. Mine works not by remembering individual details, but by 'snapshotting' a huge amount of unsorted context, through which I can sift for what I want. I can't search it for things I don't consciously remember anything about -- it would be like trying to Google for something without knowing any related search terms.) I don't think any of this would be a problem in graduate school, which is by nature a bunch of interconnected work within a specific area of study, but it was murder when I was taking the usual undergraduate crap, plus I was still dealing with my family at the time. Protip: When the university counselor decides to alert you to the fact that you can be declared independent for FAFSA purposes on the basis that having to bully tax information out of your parents every year is detrimental to your mental health, you probably ought to listen.

On the other hand, I have a hard enough time remembering to open my snailmail as it is. There's never anything pleasant in it that doesn't come packed in an Amazon box. I can't imagine that getting any better if I'm also dreading a rejection letter from MIT. I do try to not drive myself crazy on purpose.


Popular posts from this blog

The mystery of "Himmmm"


WARNING! Sweeping generalizations inside!