10 Goals for my Leave of Absence

by - Thursday, March 21, 2013

 Alright, today is basically the beginning of my Leave of Absence from school. I am taking the time to try to see if I can pull a committee together and continue with my dissertation. At the same time, I am hoping to use the time to figure out if that is even what I want for my life, for my career, for my ambition. It is no small moment for me, but I want to manage this time to figure out what I really want with my life, to prioritize my goals, and to minimize self-pity or unproductivity (I know its not a word... deal with it). So here are my goals for now until our trip in May, and then after we get back, I might introduce a new set depending on what I've learned in March and April.

10. Sign up for a class- I am thinking maybe I will take a class i might need for a Masters in Teaching this summer, just to see how I like it.
9. Have a good sense/ list of possible jobs I could get now or degrees that would get me where I want to be- Need to keep exploring and emailing people. I want to have as comprehensive a sense of my options as I can. Also, I want to keep pushing for the job at the San Jose Museum, because that is what I want more than anything for this little season in my life.
8. Get up and Be Active- I am one of those people that when they feel down, would like to roll into a ball and watch movies and eat cookies and never talk to anyone ever. That works well for me on short-scale sadness, but this whole thing promises to be a long battle and I am afraid that kind of inactivity could turn into toxicity pretty quickly. So, I have been proud that so far, since the big meeting, I have generally kept up with my health. I may even be doing more, just because currently our zumba game is in the money spot between "hey this is fun now, because we actually understand what's going on" and "damn, this is boring now." I just know I need to get up every day, and I can't use the same excuse everyday to feel down and not actually get anything done. If I feel down, I need to keep moving anyway.
7. Spend more time Outside (and Outside of Campus)- I like the coziness of our apartment, but it is important to remember I also like the sun and people. The rule is that I can only have one day at home a week. I also need to start making the active decision to stay off campus for a while, because I can see how it becomes anxiety-inducing and depressing.
6. Plan our trip- I am pretty excited about this one. Did you know there are like a thousand different safari camps you can stay at, just in Masai Mara? Once I finish this blog, I will start making a huge excel spread sheet on our options. Basically all of them are awesome and the people are super nice. We just have to figure out whether we want zebras or hippos nearby, whether we want a pool (big ethical question), etc. Then I have to figure out what we will do while hanging out in Nairobi. All good things to be working on, and I am psyched about it.
5. Get my Volunteering going- I am supposed to start on one tutoring project next week, and another one the week after that. Tonight, I am going to a meeting for photographers for another big project, so I am pretty excited about that. I am just ready to focus on something other than myself, and to remember that I can still be useful to people.
4. Write one research paper- I am still part of a conference the last weekend in June, so I need to write that paper. It was supposed to be the start of one of my chapters, so I am hoping writing it will either feel like my last hurrah or a good way to wade back in. Plus, I already have a pretty strong sense of what I want to do with it, so I am hoping it won't give me too much trouble. I won't know until I try, but it is nice that my first effort won't be on the same old proposal.
3. Read 2 books a week- Right now, I am reading Persepolis and Dorian Grey. I just bought the Marriage Plot today, but I think starting next week I will read one art history book and one novel and see how it feels.
2. Be Creative- I am going to try to learn more about photography and work on taking better pictures. I am also learning to knit, so I am hoping by the end of this, I will be a knitting master. I also hope this blog will give me a chance to keep writing and thinking in creative ways.
1. Reintroduce things that I care about and being more present in my life- As this past year has gone by, I have found myself grossly mismanaging my existence. When you are a grad student, you have the privilege of choosing your own hours, but a black cloud lingers over you all the time. You should always be reading/ working on your own stuff/ writing. Because of this, I gave up things like reading for fun or going to museums just to go. I had a lot of things I was happy about, but because that black cloud, I could never be 100% just having a good time.

 I always had music or the tv on to basically drown out my own thoughts, because it was like living life in a dentist chair, where the best you can do is keep things off your mind. The state of constant distraction is the closest I could have to peace.I am sure this attitude only made the problems I was facing as a writer worse, but it was how I survived. So now, I need to figure out how to not embrace that distraction, to turn away from always trying to numb out. We'll see how it goes.

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  1. "...because it was like living life in a dentist chair, where the best you can do is keep things off your mind. The state of constant distraction is the closest I could have to peace." - LOVE THIS.

    I want to say "hey, chin up, you've got this" and all that other cliche crap... but really, you are brilliant, you have a family that obviously adores/supports you, and you've got a great plan here. I hope you can enjoy this new adventure!

  2. My goodness. And here I thought I couldn't possibly admire your tenacity more than I already do! Love, love, love you. Spend your birthday in happiness --- I'm glad I didn't buy The Marriage Plot for you, after all :) Saw that one coming, I did