The Death of Procrastination

I have finally killed procrastination for good. Allow me to qualify this statement by adding some specificity.

I have finally mastered a student’s enemy: schoolwork-related procrastination. I’m still quite the procrastinator when it comes to several other important life arenas (cleaning, you know who you are and i curse you), but I feel that as a student, I’m making rapid headway.

Here’s my trick. I love being done with assignments ahead of schedule and not having to worry anymore far more than I love goofing off until the last possible second. I rather be calm. I rather feel a bit smug and have a cool summery beverage. I rather watch TV with lovely boyfriend in state of relaxed joy and indulgence.

It’s kind of amazing how different I am as an adult student compared to how I was as an undergrad. I think this is due to several factors. The most important factor being: I know exactly what I’m giving up in order to pursue my studies: All that time with friends and family. All that time at the movies. All those Center City Sips outings I’m not going on. All those story slams I can’t participate in. All the Free Library author events I can’t attend. They have a price. So I’m going to be as responsible to myself as I can be, and I’m going to try to reduce the stress on myself and all those I love as best I can by getting ahead whenever I can. Plus, it’s kind of fun. Yes, I also happen to be a total nerd.

A little freedom goes a long way

It’s spring break. What does my spring break look like, you wonder? Will I travel to Cancun and try to make out with college age peoples? Will there be moonlight skinny dipping? No. I work full time. This is grad school; my life isn’t some booze-fueled pleasure tour.

This week I get two nights back, without classes, and only half the reading to do, because I need to prep my group project. I feel like I’m playing hooky. I feel unburdened, fancy free, and kind of … lost. I’ve spent an hour and a half researching my streaming movie options on amazon and netflix, and now that I’m a bit too close to bedtime to start Mullholand Drive, I’ve decided that I shouldn’t watch a movie, I should read. I have a new kindle; I’ve loaded it with fun books; and I finally have a bit of guilt-free time on my hands. For god’s sake, I should be embracing the moment, eating bonbons while I sip fruity cocktails and curl my hair.
What did I do with my free night? I killed it researching, yes doing comparative research, on the ways I could spend my time if I had time to spend enjoying myself. Maybe the reason I’m cool on the prospect of reading has everything to do with the fact that I spend every free freaking minute I have reading. There’s a difference between required and elective reading, but my god, I don’t want to read.

Let’s recap. I’ve got free time and no attention span left. Maybe it’s time for an installment of the Daily Show.

Sure I can procrastinate, it’s Christmas

In addition to my cornucopia of typical procrastinating techniques, the holiday season adds a veritable arsenal of intriguing options for goofing off and Not Writing my last two academic papers. (Aside: How much time is there between Thursday night and Tuesday night? Lots, right?)

Anyway, I’m enjoying one of my very favorite end of year rituals, the thorough scouring of best of the year album lists, which means spending hours zipping through sonic samples on amazon, picking just the right new additions to my MP3 library to make me feel aurally spanking fresh in the new year.

Earlier tonight, I decorated our Charlie Brown-sized Christmas tree. Decorating Christmas trees makes me all perky and makes me sing Christmas songs to myself. Where does the joy come from?

I like giving presents, but I have a rocky prior relationship with Christmas. The Holiday Trees, however, escape my seasonal wrath. I just love that I get to take a very big plant form that has no business spending time in my living room, and I force it to spend at least two weeks with me indoors, and I make it up like a Barbie doll or an aging rock star–it’s swathed in light reflecting glittery things.

Or maybe it’s about the miniatures–I love artfully arranging the shiny miniature ornaments I buy at the German store in the Christmas Village on the tree.

Maybe my moments of seasonal magic are tied to my memories of getting up in the middle of the night in high school and going down to the couch in the living room where I would doze off to the blinking Christmas lights, so faery magic pretty.

I also enjoy the less classic holiday songs including, Elvis’s Blue Christmas and All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth, and Zat You, Santa Claus?

Other easy seasonal distractions:
1. Watching holiday comedies
2. Going to holiday parties
3. Deciding I haven’t been reading enough fiction lately and researching those “best of” lists (can you tell I’m a sucker for a best of?)
4. Shopping for gifts I have not budgeted for, but excusing the indulgence for the sake of those I love
5. Writing Christmas cards to people far and wide
6. Listening to and singing holiday songs
7. Planning my birthday outings
8. Planning my spring vacations
9. Writing holiday letters to myself on futureme.org
10. Finding new humor websites like theoatmeal.com
11. Holiday themed status updates on facebook
12. Going to visit relatives not exactly for the holidays, but within earshot of the holidays
13. Seriously pondering committing to a December cleaning spree, so I can face the New Year with pride and less clutter

Merry, merry, everyone.

India!

I originally wanted to call this blog post, India will have us by the throat (I’ll explain later).

My first day here I thought that everyone was incredibly nice. That as much as I’ve been kindly treated and welcomed in Rio and Hong Kong, by far, people in India have been kinder and more welcoming.

What I noticed in my second and following days was that the people I ran into in India were incredibly ambitious. There is a hunger for advancement and hard work in this country which I have rarely seen in the western world. Delhi puts Manhattan work standards to shame. Everyone I’ve run into here is putting forth their dearest personal best, seeking a touch of recognition. A billion smart, kind welcoming people, eager for their share of the middle class, and willing to work six days a week, 12 hours a day to get it, versus Westerners and their comfy standards of living. Oh my. There’s an education gap to bridge, but it won’t last forever.

I always supposed the 21st century would be fascinating. And the hype on India is off the mark, but not wrong. There is a wonderful pool of cosmopolitan, tolerant, flexible, sophisticated people here.

Everyone talks about the poverty in this country. That was brought home for me when I saw a very poor person on the side of the street very lovingly shake the dirt out from a stretch of burlap sackcloth, which was obviously his most treasured property, and then fold it with great care.

There’s always more to say, but I’ll leave it here for now.

Root Canal

There’s nothing inherently wrong with the words Root or Canal, the same way there’s nothing inherently wrong with the phrase Up All Night and the word Working.

I’m not going to spell it out, but trust me, it’s bad.

On the plus side of the equation, I found the most awesome blog: Feminist Ryan Gosling.

I finally located my perspective somewhere under a pile of weep. I realized that I tend to have my little meltdowns well after the crisis has passed. Like many children my age, first things go bad, then I handle them, then I realize what I went through and suffer from emotional hiccups. Then I calm down and see that everything is going to be okay.

So there. Everything is going to be okay. Plus a little helping of Feminist slogans: Hey Girl.

Delhi-riffic

I was thinking before I started my two plane travels to New Delhi of all the different rumors and murmurs you hear about India: That people respond so strongly, that it provokes and makes visitors think. I’m still in a fog of jetlag and Ambien, having gone to bed at 4am last night, but I have some general impressions.

I burst the tourist bubble:
The hotel insists on making me take BMWs everywhere (my hotel bill will blow socks off). On the advice of a local colleague, I burst through the BMW bubble–while I was not allowed a taxi, and had to be white glove driven to Khan Market, I did pull off a low-rent return to base on my own terms. I took a three-wheeled auto rickshaw back to the hotel. Daring, dangerous, no seatbelts, vehicle of Chinese (i think) construction! Driver whose hands were covered in? Unknown. Driver with desperate eyes, but friendly conversation. The insistence I take his number in case I want a tour of the people’s Delhi. He disapproved of the places I had done some shopping, too expensive, locals would not go there.

Many staff, one Sylvie: There are many staff. They are all quite specialists. It is unclear to me the difference between each specialist staff member’s role, but some only provide fruit, other appear to give pistachio sweets at night, others dust (even my stuff on the counter), and others straighten the bed. I will go bankrupt trying to tip the lot, so I have given up.
There are greeters, those who xray your stuff, those who body scan you, those who open doors, those who join hands to say Namaste, and then all the others, function unknown, but readily available. Two charming ladies, or was it three total, were involved in my getting a cup of tea outside. It’s a bit overwhelming, this level of care of details.

Temptation abounds:
Many beautiful things to buy.

Sensory overload.
When I came into my hotel room last night, there were two men, the tv was on, a welcome beverage was handed to me, someone had just put a welcoming bindhi on my forehead, I had a jasmine necklace around my neck, I was asked to sign here and here, and then got a 30 minute lecture on how to operate my room’s many controls. It’s sights, scents, sounds unending.

Random animals.
There are unsupervised life forms of all stripes lying about. Dogs sleeping in market corridors, no sign of owners. Life abounds.

Acrid odors. It smells like burning plastic, similar to burning a milk carton.

Poverty. Apparently I was directed to a fairly fancy market (mostly tourists). The fancy market did not look fancy to me–except for the immaculate L’Occitane storefront. Also, crumbling pink concrete buildings were pointed out to me as government housing, apparently this was high end housing, and being a government employee is a high status occupation. I think back to Philly municipal employees. It’s all very interesting.

Relaxed movement.
Much like Rio, people kind of jaunt or saunter when they walk about. There doesn’t seem to be a rushed setting, the way I found in Hong Kong.

Friendly Kindness. As I went about shopping, I really didn’t know if I was being treated kindly or being robbed blind. I tried to engage the local women for their opinion and they were quite sweet, friendly and helpful. The shopkeepers also are nice and very respectful and have an elegant dignity about them. But I can’t help but feel that I have gold and platinum dollar signs blazing above my head when they look at me.

Ironies.
When I had tea, the tea was a California brand, Forte. It’s good tea, but I sometimes drink it in Philadelphia, and I certainly didn’t come to Delhi for California brand tea.

Buzzing Mind

I’ve been waking up and realizing that I’m mulling over the findings in my readings and how they are altering my world view–for example, the best predictors of decreasing poverty rates for African-Americans? Lifting out of poverty correlates to having more AA’s being employed by the government and their having greater political representation.(That’s tonight’s homework–email me if you want the reference.)

Or I wake up feeling deep guilt about not having written anything other than this blog, and ruminate over all the chapters I need to revisit and improve when I start the memoir revision process in a couple of weeks. Here’s My Big Problem: I don’t have a quick snappy way of explaining how/why I ended up writing my memoir, or what the memoir is about. I guess that’s Two Big Problems.

And with my new schedule I’m constantly negotiating my priorities. Right now, for example. I really wanted to nap between work and my evening lecture. But I decided I couldn’t nap until I finished the class reading, and then I decided that if I finished the reading I was allowed to blog (still no nap in sight.)

I realize these are trivial problems–it’s like complaining about being covered in whipped cream–so messy, so sticky, and so delicious. That’s really what’s happening. My life is overfull with wonderful developments, but I’m not used to all this stimulation and activity. It’s great, but it’s definitely an adjustment.

Reasonable Girl Is Born

Last night was our last night in Montreal. We were at bar with awesome live music–watching by far the most enthusiastic rock organ player ever. The bar wouldn’t close until 3am. My instinct was to enjoy the band for an hour, get a feel for the place and the music, but get home early-ish. I wanted a good night’s sleep so we weren’t miserable on our long trip home.

I only need a taste of things. I am much happier going out every night for a few hours and getting a good night’s sleep than I am staying up all night and being shattered and off kilter for the next 24 hours. Quality of life and sustainability are my key concerns.

Lovely boyfriend likes to splurge and have adventures. Last night, our tendencies had a slight clash. We both made concessions. However, it has become apparent that my superhero alter ego is “Reasonable Girl.” And thus I have a new nickname.

(It’s fun to identify and name a mode of being that has been operational for a long while now. I’d guess five or more years.)