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On Living in That Space Between

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I have found myself feeling unsettled this week.

April came, and with it came the realization that the first draft of my thesis needs to be done and submitted by June first. That's two months. I have never had so much time to write a paper before, and so I have never before worked so slowly. I think I managed to forget what it's like to get my stuff together and just write, finishing something in a week at the most. So I feel overwhelmed--overwhelmed with ideas, overwhelmed with pages that still need to be written, overwhelmed with the idea of finally being done with school for the first time in my life. I'm so ready for that, and yet, I'm just not.

Also, our apartment is a mess. How does this happen? I think what happens is that I have a job, and Rob is in class all day, and then I'm supposed to come home and work on my paper, which I just told you I'm not really working on too much, but I'm certainly thinking about working on it, and that's exhausting! So our home never stays well-organized for long.

I want to finish my paper + Master's program. I want to clean my apartment. I want to cook dinner and be productive and go to bed feeling like I accomplished something big. Really, I do. But there's something wrong. It's like writers block, but it's happening to everything. Life block. So I sit, overwhelmed with everything I need to do but am not actually doing.

I make to-do lists in expensive notebooks with nice pens, but I write things like "paint nails" and "clean your room" in the lines between "pay rent" and "follow up on interview." Maybe this is just what life looks like as a graduate student.

It reminds me of the way I sometimes feel about this particular point in my journey. I find myself teetering unsteadily in this rather awkward and sometimes uncomfortable liminality--at once so ready for "real life," so eager to be an adult, and yet, so unprepared, and still with so much work to do.

[View of the world from my parents' deck, taken March 2012. Text quoted below.]

"I wished for things to stay the same. I wished for stillness everywhere, but I opened up the rest of the bedroom windows and let the world in" (Megan Mayhew Bergman, Birds of a Lesser Paradise, page 59).

Here's to letting the world in and then doing something with it.


  1. I totally remember this phase from the end of grad school - don't worry, it is normal, and it will pass! In a weird way, you can enjoy that this is one of the last times you're allowed to be in such a limbo. I'm sure it feels like it would be better if the darn pieces would just come together, but I'm sure they will, soon, organically!

  2. I say, be overwhelmed and just ride it out. When you get your mojo back, then you can complete your to-do lists :) but don't try anything without your mojo - it just won't work! x

  3. This IS normal. Betsy isn't lying. I went through it too, I promise, and it does pass. I asked my advisor to be hard on me and give me ridiculous deadlines to get somewhat out of my "life block" mode.

    You got this girl!

  4. I feel like this all the time. It's an obstacle life throws at you - and, yet it has to happen sometimes. So you can stop and realize that you need to get a move on. So you can stop and realize that life isn't as hard or as frustrating as we may think it is. With your deadline coming up, I have a feeling this life block will go away. You'll start working and it will start feeling good. For now, relax in the time that you have - because you're going to miss it!

  5. I feel exactly this. Right now.

    I'm always working to finish my paper (not quite as bad as a thesis, but it's our equivalent in the arts of teaching graduate school). It's due in one week and I'm starting to panic. I still have three sections to write but I've been stuck in no man's land for far too long.

    Suddenly I feel too bogged down to go have fun but too tired of work to actually get anything productive done. It's the worst type of slump.

    At least for me it's all over in four weeks, no matter what happens. My spring break is getting devoted to interviews, wedding plans, and this thesis and it's just killing me.

    Well, good luck. I hope we can both take time to step FULLY away from what we need to do and relax. Maybe once we really have fun we can get back on the horse and get it all done!

  6. I can relate SO much right now. With 1.5 months left of college I feel overwhelmingly paralyzed to move forward with things. I am part in denial and part just scared to move on. It's scary but comforting to know others feel the exact same way.

  7. I know this feeling baby! We're just growing up. It's sad and beautiful at the same time. Para for a cup of tea tomorrow? I'm free anytime after 11! love you.

  8. I think we all get like this at times...I know that I do! I have so much to do with my business, but I just don't feel motivated half the time. And Lord knows I'll let my apartment sit without being cleaned...it's terrible really. But I think the important thing to know is that this is normal. And I think something exciting will happen to really pull you out of your "life block." :)


  9. I'm so glad I'm not the only one with this block right now. My Master's thesis and another final paper are due in two weeks and I feel like they are chasing me like Pacman and I don't have the energy or braincells to fight them off. Yet, in my head, I'm working on these papers like 10 hours a day. So glad it's normal and apparently will pass.
    Wishing all of us some good luck, warm fuzzies, and brilliant turns of phrase in these papers :)

  10. I can so relate to this. For three weeks CB and I were living in the worst filth and I just didn't care. The stress of grad school, work, and the dog just didn't allow for me to care at all. We FINALLY cleaned this weekend and did laundry. I feel so much better and able to focus on school. Took us three weeks to get to that point though.

    Good luck on your thesis.

  11. This post really sits with me. I feel exactly to same as you do: so eager to being life and simultaneously so terrified by it. There's so much unknown out there and yet where I am in continuously unsatisfying. I hope you find what you're looking for. Start with a page. A page of your thesis. Finish that and move forward from there.

    Good Luck,

  12. I feel that way all the time. This: "So I sit, overwhelmed with everything I need to do but am not actually doing" describes it perfectly!


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