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Focus

March 7, 2012 at 3:00 pm
By Claire Weinberg

Well, winter term is drawing to an end without ever having really been wintry. I think the coldest it ever got was about 10 degrees (above 0!), and for the last couple days it's been spring-like outside. As it turns out, I'll be leaving for spring break much sooner than most people, because what with my single course left after finishing comps, I ended up only having one final paper due this Friday, when most people have finals until Wednesday. Not that I'm gloating. (Maybe a little.)

When I look back on this term, I'm really surprised by a dramatic change in my attitude between the first and second half of term. In January, I was essentially freaking out – I mean like, actually pulling my hair out and grinding my teeth in my sleep kind of crazy. I had never been confronted with a project as big and loaded with significance as comps, and I was trying to look for jobs after graduation at the same time. Slowly I reached a breaking point, and had the very obvious revelation that killing myself with stress was not actually related to whether or not I got any work done, and was in fact probably detrimental to that process. I discovered that I got much more work done when I had only one major goal to focus on, and could work continuously on that goal, instead of trying to choose which huge, intimidating thing to work on every time I sat down to work. I decided to put off the job search until after I finished comps, and from that point on, comps became an almost completely stress-free activity, even though I was doing it all day every day. I would just sit down with a cup of coffee, blast some music, and slowly, incrementally make progress on the one thing I had decided to ever think about, and it was fine, almost meditative. Until that point I had always been a good multitasker, when it came to normal, surmountable-seeming assignments, so it took a while to realize that uni-tasking might be my true work style. I think I'd never picked up on it before because people tended to approach the topic by giving the stock advice to "remove distractions" when you're trying to work. As it turns out, I'm fine with distractions (music, unrelated websites, people talking around me, etc.), as long as I've mentally removed the idea of needing to work on anything else but the one important thing.  I think that was just about as valuable a lesson as comps could have taught me.

So now, of course, the one important thing has become the job search, which I'll keep you all updated on. I'm trying to move to Oregon or Washington and do something writing-related, preferably for a nonprofit.  In the meantime, I'll be taking some especially cool classes in the spring: "Bollywood Nation", "Transformations in African Ethnography", and a special course called "The Poor as Proponents: A Radical Experiment", which is being taught by Marion Vance '60, who has worked for the Inter-American Foundation for 20 years. The SOAN majors are pretty excited about this course; there are 20 people on the waitlist. (But I got in because I was a senior with the 4th registration slot on the whole campus, hah!)

The next time I write, it'll probably be spring for real; in the meantime cross your fingers for me on this whole "finding paid employment" experiment!

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