How to Succeed at Comps Without Really Trying, Week 6

Oddly enough, I think I’m getting used to this. Reading. All the time.

I’m not saying that my brain doesn’t feel like it’s atrophying. Or that I don’t desire to wallow in a grassy field. Or that I’m not so so tired.

But despite all this, I may be hitting a stride here. I’ve come to grips with the fact that I can’t read during business hours, like I was originally panning to do. An 8-5 schedule implies that there is a beginning and an end. Both are lies.

Comp reading is like a flood: it rises and sweeps away everything that isn’t nailed down. It is the second half of the binary that has become my life. Should I watch a movie or should I read? Should I drink heavily or should I read? Should I go for a run or should I read?  Should I write or should I read? (These last two questions are often the hardest for me to answer as writing and running are usually at the top of my priority pile).

And of course, the answer is always the latter option, even if I don’t always do it.

Only very scheduled events survive the tide of reading, things that are planned a week or so in advance. Anything spontaneous doesn’t stand a chance. Because that empty time that say, a friend suggests we fill by going to a bar or watching a baseball game, isn’t really empty time. It’s already spoken for. Always.

Always. Always. Always.

My reading schedule is malleable though. If a friend wants to plan a lunch I can do that, but it means that I’ll be reading all evening (and thus will have to turn down any additional offers). If there’s a birthday party in the evening, I have to stay on task during the day.

Before this summer started, my professors kept saying that I needed to take advantage of this time, because I won’t ever have another summer like this. And this is true, but what they don’t mention is that life doesn’t stop. Friends and family still want to see you. Your body still needs to be exercised. Your groceries won’t buy themselves. Your car will still break down.

And all this needs to happen in those few hours in which you’re trying to wedge all these social activities.

Which means that, although I spend the majority of my days reading and fighting off an oncoming nap, I’m wildly busy because the pressure builds on both sides of the binary: if I don’t socialize enough I’ll start feeling like I’ve slipped through a crack in society’s fabric, if I don’t read enough I’m not taking advantage of what this summer is all about.

The edges of this flood are murky. Often they look like dry land upon which I can throw a frisbee or go for a hike, but really, it’s just more flood disguised as something solid.

But this is another way of saying that this binary isn’t so neat. There are so many social, mental, physical, emotional, moral, factors that something feels neglected all the time. And neglect leads to panic. Which leads to an overcorrection. Which leads to more neglect and panic.

So the flood has turned into an icy road and my life is an ’88 Bronco with bald tires, it’s fishtailing more often than it’s not, and every time I yank the wheel into the spin, I wonder if this is the time I end up in the ditch.

But the ditch is another metaphor altogether.

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