well, I am an idiot walking a tightrope of fortune and fame
I am an acrobat swinging trapezes through circles of flame
If you’ve never stared off into the distance, then your life is a shame
and though I’ll never forget your face,
sometimes I can’t remember my name
Counting Crows – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby – This Desert Life
I once thought I knew what this meant. I once thought I had a modicum of it.
Now, I’m not so sure of either of those.
There has been a lot of talk in the biblioblogosphere about balance. Walt Crawford, in particular, has devoted a couple of words to the subject here and there [buy his book]. During all of these discussions I felt that I had a decent balance in my life, or at least as much as I could based on my circumstances.
But I think I was drastically wrong. First off, deciding whether one has balance in a certain situation is vastly different from deciding one actually has balance in one’s life. That was my 1st mistake.
Mistake number 2 was perhaps lying to myself. Maybe I did; maybe I didn’t. Either way, I think I have changed my mind.
Despite taking time to relax, enjoying reading for pleasure, watching movies, going to the bar, hanging with friends, coming to accept much about the productivity of being a graduate student, and so on, I have been and am repeatedly ill. Physically, in particular. But also existentially.
I have been to the doctor and she has been unable to determine anything wrong.
Despite all the things I do to amuse (or is it to distract?) myself, my life seems to revolve around school and related-educational/professional experiences. Unfortunately, I am becoming less comfortable with formal education. I absolutely love parts of it, and parts of it I despise (the production aspect and semester system, primarily). This is a problem on several fronts. It is a definite problem in light of what a very dear friend of mine wrote to me recently:
I think it’s because you’re afraid that you might find Life post-school as disappointing (wrong word, but I can’t quite get the right one this morning) as you found it before you started back in education. You’re used to your role in the classroom and are unsure how you’ll find your role as a librarian.
I think she makes a very valid point. I have elided the exact context of our discussion, but it is a part of my current issues.
I truly need to discover what balance is for me in my life. Then I need to pursue it. A large part of my recent problems are related, if not directly causally-related, to this issue of balance. A large part of the problem, besides needing to come to an acceptance of this truth, is that I feel like I have little control over much of the things I lack. A second large problem is that to get to a point where I am able to remedy some of these issues requires successfully negotiating myself through some of the things that I dislike the most in life. The primary reason I ended up in the Army so many years ago had to do with avoiding some of these same issues.
Some of the things I need in life are mostly out of my control (see, I was good and did not say completely). I try to go places where I might meet people/someone but I cannot simply conjure up discussion partners nor a companion. Perhaps there is more I could do all along this spectrum of companion-seeking. I have had a few suggestions from some folks, some of which I try, some I do not. Doesn’t mean they are bad suggestions but just that they don’t sit right with me, or at least not now.
There are things I could (theoretically) do and that I could possibly work harder at. I have a couple of folks who would love to have in-depth conversations about some of the topics of prime interest to me, which is one of the main things lacking in my life. And, bless their hearts (Jodi, primarily), they keep trying, but our prime communication mechanism is email.
Call me a Luddite, or non-L2, or whatever you like, but serious conversation is almost impossible for me in a non-face-to-face setting. I am looking for full-blown, full-on conversation and not some pale specter of it that can happen in email, blogs and other electronic means. Because, well, I already have that. I am not claiming that such is impossible by any means. It happens (for me) on rare occasions. But it is vastly too hard for me to accomplish via these means generally; it is too hard for me and takes far more time than I would like. It takes forever to clarify terms and fine points, which leads to leaving some of them unglossed, which, in turn, leads to needless argument over things which are in actuality agreed on. Knowing that I have folks who’d like to converse with me and being unable to do so effectively just adds to my issues.
Things that I want very much to do do not get accomplished. Things that I tell others I will do drop by the wayside. Luckily, so far nothing of major significance that I have promised anyone else has slipped. But, for example, when I tell Jodi I will write a post on a certain conference program then I should. I know she understands, and I even understand, but whether it has to be or not, the “failure” increases the feeling of unbalance, amongst other feelings.
The kid could really use a vacation. I could be wrong, but the last real vacation I remember having was in 1984 or 1985 when my mom and her man came to visit me in Belgium and we traveled around Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.
Sure, I’ve had things called vacations since. But when I was in the Army most of my vacations happened when things at home got so backlogged that I had to take time off to deal with domestic chores. When we have taken a vacation as in going somewhere it was usually for more ulterior motives even if there was a bit of amusement and relaxation mixed in. Right before I left the Army the whole family took a trip to Illinois to visit colleges for both Jeremy and me. On the way up from Texas we stopped at the Cotton Bowl to see a Major League Soccer game and fireworks. It was the 4th of July.
Vacations as a student have been for the exact same reason. There is so much to do around here; always.
I’ve been to visit family in DC at some point early in this century and while it was quite relaxing I don’t exactly consider visiting family to be a vacation. And considering that my apartment was invaded by a large number of mice which ended up making me deathly ill for the next 6 months, well, not so vacation-like in the end.
The last couple conferences I went to were in many ways vacation-like but they were not vacations. They were conferences.
So I ought to just take a vacation, you say? Right. Drop me a line in my comment form and I’ll tell you where you can mail the check.
I do not know what any of this means. Not as regards my life; other than things need to change. Not as regards school. Not as regards job hunting. And not as regards this blog or my other adventures in cyberspace.
I won’t say that I’m going away because I don’t think that’s true. I may be fairly quiet for a while, both here and in commenting on others’ blogs. Or I may not. I will try and accept that my weekly reading lists may be most of what I do for a while. I have had a few people tell me that they find them useful. Feeling useful is a nice feeling for me. As for anything else I cannot say. I have no doubt that on occasion something will exercise me past the point of silence.
I am not avoiding anyone and I most certainly do not want my friends to think they must or should avoid me. My friends know the various means to get a hold of me and I am thankful that they do use those means, and I hope that they will continue to.
I have some very big, and to me terrifying, changes to face in the near future all the while attempting to deal with the issue of identifying and incorporating some balance in my life. I have no idea how I’ll fare. But I go into it knowing that I have many people who care about me, some deeply. This knowledge, in the fullest sense of the word, can only help.
…we drove out to the desert
just to lie down beneath this bowl of stars…
Counting Crows – Mrs. Potter’s Lullaby – This Desert Life
Now wouldn’t that be nice…