Tedium

Tedium.

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If you know me and have spoken to me in the last week, then you know my work right now is in a bit of a funk.  A tedious funk.  The list of tedious BS is growing too, and right now, as I write this, it’s on hold because all of the machines I need to accomplish my tedious BS are completely occupied.  I got really anxious on Tuesday at about 2 PM as I was thinking about all of the this tedium and feeling like it was never going to end.  The anxiety spiked to a level that actually kind of worried me for a second as I sat here at my desk.  

I’m not 100% sure why I got so worked up about it, but I can venture a couple of guesses, although they’re mostly irrational.  

  1. I feel completely unproductive and therefore not particularly valuable to the people who pay me.  This one is easily rationalized away since they’d have to be paying someone to do it and I’m an intern so I’m literally the lowest person on the totem pole that’s still qualified to actually do it.  It’s more of a mental thing for me in that I know what I’m capable of getting done in a day, and when that gets messed with, I don’t like it.  The stuff I’m doing also is really kind of “let it run” so I’m only engaged with it for maybe about a tenth of the time that I’m actually on the clock, but it’s computationally demanding enough that I really can’t use my computer for other stuff while it’s running.  
  2. It tires me out to feel unproductive.  No rationalizing here, it’s just the truth.  It really saps my energy to just sit around and do nothing and that’s essentially what it feels like I have to be doing these days for two or three days a week for this job.  Coupling this with the energy-sapping heat and by the end of the day I’m an anxious, sweaty mess without the energy to do anything about it.

I had a moment of clarity about a half-hour ago that this situation is largely out of my control right now.  I fired off an email to my boss explaining that there’s really nothing that I can do right now and that if there is something she’d like me to do to let me know and then I went and sat outside, because what the fuck else am I going to do?  We’re about to get blasted with another heat wave, but at least today, in the shade, it’s actually quite nice out.  There was just a stillness all around that I haven’t felt in a while.  The last time I think I really appreciated it was looking out over all of the land that I helped Danny and Nathan plant this past winter in Carrboro.  It was just very peaceful, which is not a way I usually feel here in LA. 

I was also outside, which is not a place I’ve gotten the chance to be much and foolishly haven’t sought out on the weekends.  But I snapped out of something, some funk.  I don’t think it entirely melted away, but it was this awareness that I’m still able to feel relief from this tedious, shitty work right now and that energy and vigor I have for things is still simmering below the surface and, despite what the worrying-hoffman-side of me would have me believe, it’s not going to last forever.

A lot of this is all tied up in this greater question of what the hell are we doing with our lives as young people.  We’ve been told at every step of the way that we can do anything and that we are going to change the world, that it’s hard to not feel like a disappointment if we’re not.  That’s not to say that anyone has done anything wrong at any point or anything even should have been done differently, it’s just a unique challenge that our generation faces and doesn’t have a whole lot of guidance for.  

So every moment that I don’t feel like I’m passionately doing what I’m doing feels like a waste of precious time and resources but I also like I’m going to get fired because I’m not going above and beyond what I’m working on.  It’s so easy to go above and beyond when you enjoy what your doing or care deeply about it and I’ve been so lucky to experience that, that it feels like a disappointment to everyone around me when I’m not working at that level.  I think that’s kind of where I’m at right now with this tedious work: I’m doing everything that’s being asked of me, but I don’t care about it, it’s taking longer than anyone thought it would, and it’s boring and easy and thus I’m not learning anything.  Now that I’m on about week four of it, it’s starting to feel like a lot of my time is slipping by, time that could be used for other things, and it’s spidering out into the rest of my life which takes away my energy for other things.  

But that moment of clarity hit a chord and I’m feeling better.  I still have a lot of work to do because there are going to be lots of times in life where you’ve just gotta knuckle under and get stuff done that no one wants to do, but at least I can tell myself and actually feel for myself that it’s not forever.

<3,

John