JewBu Quest: From Abuse to Happiness

JewBu: a Jew who practices forms of Buddhist meditation & spirituality. This blog documents my quest to 1) heal from sexual, verbal, and emotional abuse, 2) come to terms with losing Mom and Grandma to Alzheimers, 3) find balance, explore the spiritual, stay present. Bascially, I've experienced some pretty crappy shit in my life and want to find a way to move past it and find happiness.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Perfectionism and the Pull to Succeed: Why Balance is Such a Struggle

This afternoon, I went to the third session of the grad student support group at the counseling center at school. I did most of the talking today, which I try to keep myself from doing, but everyone else is so quiet. Anyway, the topic became my struggle to find balance in my life and having to deal with pressure from my advisor and others in the department.

It actually kind of annoyed me that everyone all of a sudden claimed that they have all of this balance. But then when I pushed them on it, turns out that they work all the time, round the clock. One guy says to me, well I take breaks playing video games, as IF that is balance.

Here's where I got caught up on the way that I'm thinking about all of this: So, besides a weekend in San Francisco to visit a couple of friends coming in from Indiana for a weekend (where I'll be working on my thesis part of the time) AND going to a wedding the next weekend in Denver with *A*, there is no time for a proper vacation, not any time soon. And, I (and my friend Kathy!) desperately need some real time (like a couple of days at least) to just relax and not have to even think about my research or my job or my family. But, as things are now, it just isn't going to happen.

And, in order to get through all of my data, which my advisor wants me to do, will take me 2 weeks straight of work. That means I won't meet the deadline of getting a draft done of my thesis before I go to KC Dec. 11.

I'm under all of this pressure to work harder, to do things well, to present at more places, to put in more hours, to get things done faster...pressure from my advisor, pressure from my research team, pressure from other grad students. I know all of this pressure and stress has a BIG impact on my migraines and my other health problems. Basically, it makes me sick.

So what am I supposed to do? Do I stay on this path where I'm expected to work 80 hours/week? Is this path why I'm not in a relationship or any where near ready to have kids? Balancing everything seems impossible. Will I ever have the opportunity to go back to Israel and still be an academic? How much is my perfectionism a reflection of my drive to become someone not my parents?

Honestly, maybe I wonder if this group was good for me; it made me think a lot about things, but it also made me question things that I don't want to be questioning. I feel like they were kind of judgemental and didn't even really get to hear all of the complexities of my story - that I work so hard to keep the option open of getting at job at a university and because I really care passionatlely about the topics and the people that participate in my studies. I don't think that they really understood that my work really makes a difference and that it is different than just working in the corporate world. I don't know. I'm going to try to do some work tonight on my thesis because I spent all day working on my advisor's research/my job.

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Blogger Gail Rae said...

Yeow, Karma...while pulling to succeed, which is an honorable endeavor, by the way, especially since you know exactly how you want to succeed, don't pull yourself apart!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 11:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny -- I too am struggling with the whole 80hrs a week of work thing. I'm working full time at a non-profit with all these extra events on various nites, he's teaching primarily nite classes, and then we're in the studio till midnite at least 3-4 times a week. I started a small business year before last and sometimes I wonder what on earth I was thinking taking on all these things!! I sympathize with the whole passing out of exaughstion, trying to make time for self and lack of vacation aspects of this post. I've started doing some other things to mentally calm down. Giving myself permission to take a walk (counteractively not thinking about wasting time and instead focusing on bird watching, architecture, etc). Another thing I do is wake up 10 minutes earlier than I need to start my day and curl up in my armchair and get totally engrossed and escape into a book (non-fiction usually) - I know it sounds crazy but that brief escapism seems to be energizing for me. I start every Monday with writing a list of do-able shortterm tasks (ie: grocery shopping), and then I tackle some long term things (that usually freak me out) by setting realistic goals that can be accomplished in the week. Then I cross off items, and whatever isn't done by Saturday I tack on to next week's list. Last week I actually got to throw the entire crossed off list away in the recycling bin - very satisfying for those here and now needs. And no, nothing is completely finished by any means, I just made some noticeable progress. Perhaps I'm not explaining this well, it's just I've discovered if I think about the entire taco vs. obtaining each of the components to make the taco -- I'll get so flabbergasted that I won't do anything. I am also trying harder to remember all that I have accomplished, as opposed to constantly drilling myself about how old I am and why I haven't accomplished certain things in my career -- or why I got rejected from the last exhibition I submitted to. We're all amazing human beings with the capacity for so much. I think half the battle is waking up every morning and trytrytrying again to make a small step forward. I wish you nothing but the best of luck with it.

BTW: Several people I know do find relief in video games. While that is not for you or I, that is their form of escapism/entertainment, and if they seem intelligent & productive overwise, who are we to judge. In conclusion, to each his own.

You really have had an amazingly trying year and I'm really proud that you are still working on your research/thesis. I remember when you told me you were going to grad school - I started calling you Dr. D. I still expect to call you Dr. some day, and I just wanted to tell you that. Sorry for the rambling. Love S.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 7:40:00 AM  
Blogger Karma said...

Of course, I still have "Frank", my franklin day planner. I'm very organized about things, and that helps a lot. Sometimes I get frustrated with the moving back to KC and here and all that I've done this summer because its forced me to be somewhat less organized.

I don't have a problem with people who play video games (unless they're like Kathy's ex who spends too much time on it or like my ex David who played Vice City where they kill cops and rape street workers); I just don't find taking 15 minutes here and there as a break to be living balanced.

I just need more people to support me like you two. Thanks!

Thursday, November 02, 2006 7:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Katy said...

Hi, Karma, I just thought I would leave a comment here for you because I am also in grad school and feeling the same sorts of pressures. I don't think I have a solution for you because I feel like I am headed for "burn-out" too even though I feel like I get less and less done all of the time. I guess I just keep telling myself to plug on and take those breaks whenever I possibly can to keep myself sane. It's not a great way to live, but trying to set little goals and inch your way towards your degree might keep you from feeling overwhelmed. I also find that not being too hard on myself and being a little bit selfish is somewhat necessary. Remember, it's hard to be young and be working your ass off. You deserve a break no matter what your other (poser) support group students might say or your advisers. In my experience, people talk a great game, but they're probably just as stressed out as you.

Friday, November 03, 2006 12:49:00 PM  
Blogger Karma said...

Thanks Katy. I agree! I think this is just part of the game of being a grad student.

Friday, November 03, 2006 12:57:00 PM  
Blogger Jerusalem Joe said...

but what are your alternatives?do you have other less stressful choices that you can make?
if so why haven't you done so?
generally speaking, the more stressful the environment, the less energy you will have left for dealing with personal issues.
i do not know what your research area is, but a burned out activist, no matter in what cause, can do no one any good.

Saturday, November 04, 2006 4:29:00 AM  
Blogger Karma said...

My alternatives are to take my research less seriously and end up on a different/lesser career path (not necessarily being able to get tenor, getting stuck at some school in the middle of no where, not having the opportunity to return to Israel with a job), to find a new field altogether (although I find that a lot of fields that involve activism also involve a lot of stress), just give up on stress altogether and become a socialite volunteer.

I really care about my research and am passionate about what I do. I research some really amazing people, and I get strength and inspiration from them.

Saturday, November 04, 2006 9:17:00 AM  

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