Notes from the Library

Michaelmas 2012

I want to write about the term since I just handed in my last piece of work, but first two reasons why I am reluctant to go ahead and do so.

Firstly, I worry that writing like this is self-indulgent, and feeds my ego and my sense of self-importance. It encourages me to theorise about myself and starts to elevate this analysis to the level of the analysis that I'm supposed to be getting on with with regards to my degree, for example, or anything else that is of real interest. It keeps me inside my head—and that definitely means away from philosophy, as well as everything else in my life that has value. More on this later.

Secondly, the reaction of my grandmother to new posts on this blog is difficult to deal with. She seems to interpret every post that I file under /writing/diary as saying that I'm down or sad, and then she tells me this on the phone. And I want to say 'maybe I am sad about such-and-such, but so what?' because I don't think being sad is really that terrible. I don't say this directly, though. My feeling tends to be that she wants me to say something to counteract whatever her impression of the post was, and if I do manage to come up with 'but it's alright because…' she comes across as very relieved, very suddenly. It's difficult to know what's going on with her concern for me because it seems to dissipate so quickly, and this makes her concern seem very selfish. I have no idea if it is actually selfish or not; hopefully it's clear why this behaviour could be taken in that way. Moreover, as I said, being sad isn't something that must be fixed or worried about it, it's just there, perhaps we can think about the causes or whatever, but I can't empathise with her reaction at all. And this is something that I have to deal with every time I write something in this category.

I'm writing this post anyway. This is because I write on this blog mainly for myself, and I'm trying not to do it as often as I used to, and because I shouldn't let my relationship with my grandmother dictate my activities that are conducted outside of her vicinity.

So as I say I have handed in my last piece of work and this morning I had termly reports from the two tutors who I've had this term. Those reports were good. The only negative thing said was that I am apparently too tentative in my philosophy of mind essays; I attributed this to the extreme difficulty of the paper. I don't understand why my tutors would be this positive when my view of the term has been rather different.

My view is that I have not reached anything like my potential, because I don't let myself actually think about topics, and I don't put enough time in. My workload this term has been less than ever before so I ought to have had lots of time to get reading done well in advance so I could spend proper time thinking though essays. But I haven't done. I've left things until the last minute when I know I can't think—and this is in part a self-fulfilling prophecy, of course, since if I keep telling myself I'm too tired to work, then I will be. What have I been doing instead? Wasting hours and hours and hours. Not doing interesting extracurricular activities or spending time with others, but just sitting alone eating sweets and staring at the wall or watching hours and hours of YouTube or something. And I do mean staring at the wall, or perhaps a keyboard in front of me. Multiple times I'll have sat down to write another miserable excuse for an essay and I'll spend four hours in the computer room. I'll be working on the essay for about two hours, spending the other two just sitting and staring at the wall because this is what I'd rather do for some reason. I'll look at the clock and say "I'll stop sitting and doing nothing when it gets to half past" and things like that. I guess at least I'm not on Facebook.

This stops me from engaging with the philosophy. While there have, admittedly, been some very boring essay topics this term, most have not been. The two papers I've been doing, philosophy of mind and philosophy of language, overlap a great deal. Fundamental and difficult arguments and divisions underlie both; grappling with these issues that at this point I can often not put a name to, but just see the shadow of in essay topics, is the challenge. My thought is that if I'd put the time in I'd be much closer to getting clear on these difficult issues. Instead I'm not getting much out of the subject because I'm just trundling along by doing something very minimal.

The bad habits pile up and I feel terrible, and then also feel terrible about myself because I know it's all my fault, since I know what it is I ought to be doing. Also my anxiety levels are extremely high. It's exhausting to go around and around in my head; I know all the thoughts are a waste of time by now but around I go as I've described before. I've never got to the point where I find myself wanting to jump in an icy-cold pool or something to try to stop my head from spinning around, though, which is how I've felt lately. I'm stuck in my head.

I know what it is that keeps me sane/makes me happy (take your pick): not being under pressure with academic work because I'm ahead of schedule (I don't mind being under pressure with other kinds of work, in fact, I like it), and seeing a variety of friends. So I should just get on and make these two things habitual. But I haven't been doing this term so it's been rubbish for a lot of the time.

Hopefully I can improve on things into this vacation, when I have scary coursework to do, and then into next term. I have a few days off now to go to lectures and end of term social events. After this I'll have a go at normalising my sleep schedule (another bad habit that it's unlike me to get into), clear my todo list of things that ought to be done before the end of term, then see what I can make of my two remaining weeks in Oxford during the interview period before I head home.

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