Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Words of Wisdom

I'm at work when I realize I haven't eaten since yesterday early dinner, unless you count the three salt and vinegar chips I inhaled while typing up my interpretation of Martin Buber's discourse with Gershom Scholem regarding Hasidism (my take: it's one a.m. and I'm tired, go philosophize in another room, gentlemen).

Today, I finally handed in two out of the four papers I have due within the next two weeks. I haven't even had caffeine today. It's wonderful. A few more days and the other two papers will also be out of my life forever.

And in this little lull I have, the one day this week I have sworn not to spend on a paper (decompressing time is just plain old necessary, especially when you don't have the time for other forms of stress relief), I decided to look at that little blip of light at the end of the two-week tunnel.

Winter break.

I've got ideas for winter break, even though it seems so far away. It's true that since losing my ability to plan long term, I haven't been able to come up with any concrete projects and plans for that wonderful breather time, but I've got some hints. Mostly, though, I just see it as an end to the hardest semester I've ever had. Next semester, crazy as it will be work-wise, will be better than this one.

I've decided it will be this way.

I have a friend who has some of the crazy-strongest willpower of anyone I know. Whatever they decide will happen to them, whether it's where they will spend their summer, where they'll work, or even what mood they'll be in for the next week, somehow, they make it happen. It's incredible (and sometimes, I'm jealous of that ability). I'm giving it a try now. I'm DECIDING that next semester will be a good one. I'm going to be willful too.

Also, I've just got this weird, omen-like feeling that it WILL be a good, even important semester, whether I actually decide so or not.

And naturally, whenever I find myself facing a time of change or a step forward, I think back on the advice and words of wisdom I've received in the last few weeks. Here are a few of my highlights for this past month or so:

1) "Whatever you're afraid of, remember that it's a fear, not a fact." I got this one from my advisor at school, specifically in reference to fear of future failure. "You're afraid that you're going to fail? That's a fear, not a fact. Just remember the difference."

2) "Go skydiving." This one came from an old friend I met briefly after a long-time of no-see. He was telling me about a deep trouble he'd suffered some years ago, before everything started to slowly work out, and about how the only way he felt he could force his way past it was to do something that absolutely terrified him. Use the energy and fear and anger on something you would never normally do, that way, all that energy was put to good use, and you will have genuinely defeated a fear and grown from it. While the particular fear I decided to conquer wasn't skydiving, it's the principle that counts.

3) "If you're hungry, have a snack. But if they're serving your favorite food for dinner, don't spoil your appetite." Back to my favorite agonizing thought: the battle between instant gratification and possible long-term happiness. I picture it a little like this: would you choose a job that was difficult and low-paying now, but had tons of room for growth and eventual great pay and benefits, or an easy but brainless one that offered better pay right away, but with absolutely no room for growth or payraise in the future?

4) "The world is cold and cruel. If you find a small group of people who love and stand by you, cherish them and hold on, because you will need each other." This is a composite of a few lessons from Boy Meets World. I watched that show all the time growing up, and lately I've been rewatching episodes on YouTube. Sometimes you need a twenty-minute break from papers. The character Mr. Feeny has words of wisdom about love and friendship and courage, but if I learned anything from that show, it's from watching Shawn Hunter, the cute slacker. Every episode, he's got another girl on his arm, another funny comment. But he's also the one who spends nights in the park and gets arrested for petty crimes.
In one episode, Shawn considers joining a cult full of smiles, free food, and hot girls. Of course, this means turning his back on his friends and his longtime teacher, Mr. Turner. After Mr. Turner is critically hurt in a motorcycle accident and Shawn decides he can't face him, his best friend Cory grabs him in a forced hug. "This is when you hug somebody," he says, "When you care about them, and you want them to know that. Now you cannot leave here. Turner took care of you. He loves you, and you love him. Is that real?... You decide, but you cannot go." Eventually, Shawn is forced to stay and talk to his teacher, until he finally musters up the courage to say to the cult leader, "If I was an empty person, I would go with you, because it's easy. But I'm through with easy, and I'm through with empty." And I, the audience promptly burst into shameless 90's sitcom tears. For those who are curious, here's that episode.

6) "You don't know the Plan." If there is a Plan, if G-d is shaping your life or knows what's meant to happen, you don't know what it is. You can pray if you'd like. Maybe that will help. But whether it does or doesn't, you are not always, if ever, in control. I'm currently in the midst of trying to figure out what to do with this lesson, because if there's a Plan, I sure as heck don't know what it is. All I know is that for once, I've stopped my own planning, and I'm letting G-d/the Universe pick up some of the slack.

and finally, another Mr. Feeny gem:

"I can do whatever I want. I have the megaphone."

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