It’s the day of my paper deadline, I have a horrible throat infection (complete with headache and rasping cough) and I’m just FREAKING OUT because it all seems like TOO MUCH and why why why did I not just hole myself up in my apartment and get on with things? Why did I come back to Europe with the plane bacteria and the jetlag and the horrible horrible weather that I’m afraid to drive my Smart car in and somehow seems worse than in Canada because it never used to be that bad when I lived here.
My friend IM’s me and I just freak out on her. I tell her that I’m stressed about this paper deadline, and I’m sick, and that I’m not going to be finished this semester and honestly I haven’t even looked at when the date I had to re-register by was. She’s great, and says, well what do you need to do? I’m going to stay here whilst you do it. And she says,
It’s a relief to discover that you’re human.
Which shocks me – because this is someone who I respect hugely, who I consider a mentor, and find incredibly inspiring. Honestly, I’ve been convinced since a few days after I met her that she is super human. She is so frickin’ awesome.
And then my dad comes home, randomly in the middle of the day to pick something up, and he asks me how I am and I cry some more and tell him that I feel so ill and that I’m a total failure and that I’m so sorry that I’m not going to be finished this semester but will need to register for another one. And he tells me it’s OK, he’s not mad at me, he’s frustrated by the university (chronically disorganized and terrible at communicating dates etc) and my “supervisor” who, ah, doesn’t actually supervise me.
I’ve been thinking about this lately, because we all seem to think that other people are doing better than we are. They’re more together, more organized, more capable, just doing better at life whilst we flounder though, making it up as we go along.
If I were to sit down with someone else and they’d been having the experience that I’ve had, I would be horrified, angry on their behalf, and probably taking up their cause and trying to find someone to complain to. But, me, I think I should just be getting on with it, graduating in fewer semesters than typical (this is my 5th if you don’t count the one I spent in Shanghai) and somehow just knowing how you write a paper, how you get it published, and how you write and submit a masters thesis without having to ask anyone HOW THE F**K DO YOU DO THAT BECAUSE I HAVE NO F**KING IDEA?!?!?!?!?!
It’s one thing to hold yourself to higher standards than others. That’s how you strive to be nicer, more honorable, more organized, whatever. And, if you’re striving hard, it’s probably necessary to cut others some slack if you want any friends. But allowing other people to be human and thinking that I should be some kind of cyborg is not healthy, or helpful. Let’s be honest, it’s insane.
Other people tell me I’m doing a lot because they see the three papers I submitted this semester, the blog posts I produce every week. I don’t see the day I worked near non-stop from 10am to 3:30am the following morning or the days I work fewer hours, but with furious intensity. I fixate on the weekend I spend in my PJs with my boyfriend playing through my new LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4 game (Amazon). Or the days I slept in. Or that day I just read a novel when I had so much to do, I mean – what was I thinking?!?
I’m not a cyborg. I have to accept that I will have to register for another semester. I have to forgive myself and acknowledge that if it were someone else in my place, I wouldn’t be judging them for it.
But next semester will be the last one. If I’m not done by then, I don’t think it’s worth it any more. I have a great job. I’ll have an academic paper published (come Feb), an industrial one (don’t know when that will be out) and something I wrote (class paper, didn’t try to publish it) is going to be cited in SIGCHI. One more academic paper (working title: Exploring Transient Communities on Twitter) and isn’t that all you’re supposed to get from a MSc anyway? Do I need a fancy piece of paper and a picture of me in a stupid hat to certify that I paid uOttawa a ridiculous amount of money for the privilege?
I can’t beat myself up about this any more than I already have. I could be more focused. I could work harder. I could be more organized. But, I hope the truth of it is that my failings here are pretty insignificant compared to the failings of the system. The guy who was supposed to be my supervisor told me my work was worthless. He hasn’t read anything I’ve done. When I helped my office-mate transform their non-sense “framework” into a cycle he refused to let my office-mate put my name on the paper (it got published, my office mate hated it slightly less after I fixed it). He gave me away saying he didn’t know what I was doing and I should just work with my co-supervisor (who is amazing, but at a different university which means he can’t help me with some things).
If I’m going to be angry, and frustrated… I don’t necessarily have to start by being angry and frustrated at myself.
So, there it is. I’m human. Flawed. Inadequate. Scared. Overwhelmed. Angry. Exhausted. Lost.
Not a cyborg. And I think that’s for the best. Because if I never melted down, I wouldn’t be pushing myself. And I would never have those moments where someone else reaches out to me and they understand, or sympathize, or help in some way. And it seems to me like they have a super power, that cyborgs will never, ever have.