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Life Craft

Finals weeks are misery for me.  Sometimes I catch a wave of inspiration and weep into my keyboard, but those moments are rare.  I am not having one yet this time around.  I took too many classes this quarter and thus couldn't start my papers until it was too late to wait around for Muses.  And when I say I took too many classes that is not a request for applause at my ambition.  It was a mistake.  A mistake that reflects how desperate I am to be finished with my coursework so I can move on to Dante and do some real thinking that is not geared toward a 3AM slapdash 25 page paper.  And hopefully then this program will become enjoyable for me and not a daily reminder of the huge mistake I made deciding to go here.

As I have been trying to piece together a Boccaccio paper over the past three days, I've spent way more time on the internet than I normally do.  Especially Vogue, a publication I used to read regularly and haven't honestly read in several years.  I watched a bunch of their 73 questions videos and looked at clothes and read interviews with famous people.  And as I've done so, it's interesting to notice how my attention has shifted as I've gotten older.  There are a lot of articles and comments in videos that pertain to simple ways to "be fabulous" in one way or another - the dessert you just HAVE to have, the way you SPOIL yourself with that one super expensive face cream, your preference for simplicity EXCEPT when it comes to shoes, that one photo in your foyer by a famous photographer who was just AMAZING to send it to you.

I do not begrudge people these things in the least, and of course I have plenty of my own indulgences (right now it's a Pure Barre membership and fancy juices every Friday).  There are probably things in my house that remind me of a moment in a fabulous past when I took delight in things like getting expensive handbags or shoes or $30 cocktails.  And those things are meaningful, and there's no reason they shouldn't be.  But as I move forward, I'm especially wary of those kinds of cliches.  The "just do it" and "treat yourself" approaches to life are starting to feel stale to me, mostly as I realize that everything is, to put it as bluntly as possible, really expensive.

I wrote on the back cover of my journal in college a Thoreau quotation that reads, "The price of a thing is the amount of life you exchange for it."  The phrase "amount of life" is getting more and more poignant to me as the noise of ticking clocks starts to impose itself upon me.  Will I have any time to see Greer today?  How many more miles will I get out of this car?  How many weeks until my taxes are due?  How long until I finish my PhD?  How much longer should I wait if I want time for a few healthy pregnancies?  How much time can I then take away from working without rendering useless all the efforts of earning the PhD?  How long has it been since I visited my parents?  How can we all extend their active years as long as possible?  How long...gulp...do I have left with them?

Time is the real currency.  I find myself always celebrating the change to a new month because I love the idea of putting more stuff behind me.  It's one thing to count down to the end of a school program or a stressful period, but I realize that I am now at the point where I am just celebrating "getting things over with" in general.  And I think that is something I am going to eventually regret.

If meaningful things do not take up our time, then they will not be a part of our lives.  I want to make a new commitment to free time - amazingly, it never ends up being empty, but manages to be filled with the kinds of things that make life important.  I am starting to gain enormous respect for the people I know who have the courage to allow unstructured time in their lives.  I have one close friend who is a stay at home mom right now.  She is super busy all day every day, but the fact that some of those activities are unstructured means she's the one who magically manages to reply to my texts or make me a meal or ask me the question I can only respond to with tears.  She's also the one who is gracious when I have to cancel and compassionate when I am overwhelmed.  I am so eager to have the time to be that person for my friends and family again.

So all this to say: I would much rather have time than stuff.  Slowing things down so you can focus on people is praiseworthy.  Frantic and obsessive working has a kind of fabulousness and glamor attached to it, but I am no longer interested in that.

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