(kind of) a life update

I started this blog with the intent of using it as sort of an online diary, but so far I have only written about things that I thought would be useful or interesting to other people. However, I want to be able to look back at this record and see my own personal changes and growth, as well. Not to be morbid or anything, but getting in a car accident earlier this year reminded me, in a weird way, how short and unpredictable life is, and it made me realize how important it feels to me to “leave behind” some sort of record of my thoughts.

In retrospect, it wasn’t that severe, considering that I am sitting here typing this and am completely fine. But since that experience, and given the crazy things that we hear all the time in the news these days, I can’t help but feel like life is too short to hold back. That goes for holding back from what you really want to say in any situation, holding back from telling a loved one how much they mean to you, holding back because you’re scared, holding back because you “don’t feel like it,” holding back from taking small steps to chase your dreams in life… You get the idea. The phrase “holding back” is pretty perfect because we really are what’s holding ourselves back from achieving, in many cases. Anyway, the later it gets, the more my writing becomes a stream of consciousness. In the interest of not drowning in said stream, here’s a little update on my life.

It’s a Sunday night. I am sitting in my bed, pretty content because I did my usual Sunday routine of meal prepping, cleaning, and just getting ready for the week. Very excited for this week’s meals:
I mixed oats up with some protein powder, cashews, walnuts, cocoa powder and PB powder for breakfast.
Lunch: tofu in peri peri sauce (I charred the red peppers on the stove to get the skins off of them for this sauce, and oh boy that was an adventure, can someone please tell me how I’ve set the smoke alarm off making rice before but it didn’t detect this?), with lemon herb quinoa and red cabbage and cherry tomatoes on a bed of spinach. (I love when my food is rainbow.)
For dinner, I made sweet potato “boats” with chili and a cashew cream sauce (because the chili is very spicy, and I am very weak.)

However, while I may feel like I have the small things together (tiny victories!), there’s an overarching feeling of work left unfinished. That’s pretty much a constant in grad school, from what I can tell so far. No matter how much time I spend reading, there’s always more I could be doing. Every time I write a paper, even just the short ones I’ve done so far, I always feel as if it could be a little bit better, but, oh wait, I forgot about another assignment that’s due tomorrow and I don’t have time to worry about the details of this one. And I consider myself someone who plans ahead ~relatively well.~

Alas, it seems like that is just a part of life. I mean, is there anybody who goes to sleep at night knowing that everything is “done?” I don’t think so. I think that becoming comfortable with imperfection and incomplete goals [while still being on the way to achieving them] is pretty key to mental well-being as well as to success.

I tend to be a perfectionist, and I’m no stranger to a long to-do list + a busy schedule, but I find myself looking back at my college days and wondering how I did it all, in addition to feeling challenged by this seemingly never-ending amount of work. The knowledge that all of my work for the semester will be complete in less than two months is both intimidating and reassuring.

More on my day to day life so far, though. I feel so lucky to be surrounded by some of the smartest people I have met. The people in my program have all been not only welcoming and kind, but genuinely interesting and admirably intelligent. It is just so cool to be able to learn in an environment where everybody can bring their unique perspective to a discussion, and everybody else knows a little more, or has maybe reassessed or reaffirmed their thoughts, walking away from it.

Not only that, but I really can’t complain about the way I spend my time. I mean, it definitely would not be enjoyable for some people, but I’m quite content with my daily life right now. It’s about a 10 minute walk to the metro from my apartment. Where I live is a little more residential and laid back, but the area around the university is obviously more urban. I enjoy experiencing that contrast on a day-to-day basis, even if I don’t always enjoy how long the metro ride can sometimes take. I can usually find a quiet place on campus to eat lunch and just take some time to think. I spend my days reading endlessly, but it’s reading about things that I find generally interesting and important. I love when I have the opportunity to write. There are so many coffee shops around. I can walk a few blocks away from campus and chill with Lincoln at his monument whenever I want.  I can, for the most part, choose my schedule. And even though I’m having to re-learn math (this is actually really hard for me), I can feel my mental abilities being stretched in different directions and that’s satisfying to me.

So while I’m overwhelmed, I try to remind myself that it is an overwhelm that I chose for myself, and that harboring any negative feelings will not change the reality of how much work there usually is to do, and how few hours the days can feel like they have. We all really do have the same 24 hours, and, unlike the “ultra-productive” CEOs of the world, I may not have a bunch of people I can delegate tasks to, but I can definitely choose to prioritize the ones that matter to me. As for the ones that don’t, as I’m pretty sure Buddha once said: flat,800x800,075,t.u1.jpg

It sounds crazy to just let something “go,” especially if it feels like an obligation or a responsibility. But if you truly do not have the time for something, then you certainly do not have the time to dwell on it mentally, either. If you have time to dwell, you have time to do; if you don’t have time to do, don’t dwell. (I just made that up, and I like it.)

Also, a note about sleep, which is what I am going to attempt to do after writing this… At this point in my life, sleep is so difficult for me, and I do not know why. I have been finding it difficult to fall asleep, even more difficult to wake up, and have just felt tired overall. We all know this isn’t helping my caffeine habits. It’s pretty sudden, too. It seems like no matter how much or how little I sleep, I just can’t get myself to wake up in the morning. If anyone knows why this might be, I would love input… (I try to avoid googling things like this. Obviously I would just end up convincing myself I have every ailment listed on WebMD.)

I guess this update is a little mundane. But, so is most of life, and we have to find a way to see the beauty in it.

-AK

3 thoughts on “(kind of) a life update

  1. Alex, this is great. As someone also in grad school (though not a PhD program *bows down*), I relate to this ridiculously. It’s intoxicating to be surrounded by brilliant people all of the time – and at times can be a bit exhausting and humbling. There are never enough hours in the day to accomplish everything on the to-do list, eat well, exercise, and sleep. Unfortunately classes will sometimes be moved to the back burner, so you can refresh and reframe why you’re doing what you’re doing and where you’re hoping to go (which I struggle with). I love that you bring it back to we all have the same 24 hours, and it’s what we choose to do with those that make us different – I’m trying to make this a more prominent part of how I approach each day, because you’re right – we’re only given so many 24 hours periods to make our mark (which I believe you’re doing quite well!).

    Is most of your reading computer based? There’s a ton of options now to be able to change the color of your screen to a yellow/red hue when you want to help minimize the blue light you’re exposed to that disrupts your ability to sleep. Additionally, when our minds are running a hundred miles an hour for 10 hours of the day, it’s definitely difficult to shut that off immediately when we crawl into bed. I started using Headspace (meditation app), which I (try) to do 3-5 minutes every day, sometimes twice a day. It helps bring me back to the present moment when I’m being pulled in 10 directions with everything that needs to be done, and also definitely helps clear my mind before going to bed. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

    Love to talk more with you about some of these things sometime and look forward to your future posts 🙂

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    • Hey Kelly, I’m so glad you can relate! I like your outlook about refreshing and reframing why you’re doing what you’re doing. When I “force” myself to set aside work for the day, it sometimes makes me feel guilty, and I always try to remember myself it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

      Thanks for all of the suggestions, too! I think that’s a good idea about the computer screen and I hadn’t even thought about it. I try to stay away from the computer/ phone when it is close to my bed time, but we all know that is easier said than done. I actually tried the Headspace app too! However, I’m pretty sure it was limited without buying the paid version (correct me if I’m wrong because I’ve been looking for a free meditation app that has more capabilities haha). Yoga is also awesome.

      Thanks so much for the encouraging message. 🙂 I hope grad school is going awesome for you.

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  2. I love reading your blog Alex and I was thinking how can I help… the main thing I’ve got is affirming that your daily need for caffeine to get/keep going is probably affecting your ability to get to sleep along with the list of all there is yet to do, that’s probably playing in your head. Maybe you’re not taking after your mom as much in this regard. I may be the only one that can’t have caffeine of any kind after 1 Pm or
    I can’t get to sleep either, and it becomes a cyclical. I’ll try to remember to send the sleep fairy down to you after she waves her wand over me ( cause I’m SURE I go to bed before you)!! Xxxooo 💞

    Like

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