My finals are like magnets

In the sense that it's as if I have the same polarity as them: they keep pushing me away, even though it's easy to stick to plenty of other tasks. 

I've gotten a lot done in the past couple days. A little bit of it has even been related to my finals, but for the most part I just can't get myself to work on them. It's been very frustrating.

Today I helped a friend brainstorm for their final, went to a meeting about a website for a group I'm not in, and did some illustrations that have no purpose whatsoever. 

I also formatted one of my finals again.

Blech.

Spinning, toothless, tightly wound

This is another pre-written post, coming from Sunday night, and rounding out the week of pre-written posts. 

I've spent the last few hours trying as hard as I can to work on my Politics of Space final. Lots of other things came together today. I felt like I was in such a good place. But when I work on this -- I can't get the whole picture in my head. This is a difficult topic, and it's not my usual area. 

It feels like all the gears in my head are spinning, more than fast enough, with plenty of force, but their teeth aren't connecting. They aren't moving each other, they aren't exerting any force. They're just spinning.

One of my earlier posts this week (from a writing binge yesterday) was about how it feels simultaneously shameful to use that energy, or to let it fail. I could let the gears connect elsewhere. They wouldn't move this machine, but they'd do something. The energy wouldn't be lost. It'd just be, I don't know. Stolen. Diverted. It feels so strange. Like I'm underwater and scratching at a thin layer of ice, that I could easily break if only I weren't so out of breath. Sorry for mixing metaphors. 

Averting decision fatigue, Spring 2016 finals

This is the third day in a row of pre-scheduled blog posts -- after I wrote the Monday blog post last Saturday, about how I didn't have the energy to work on stuff I needed to, but I did have energy to work on other stuff, I decided it was a good idea to use this burst of energy to clear up some space later in the week.

This blog is really important to me, but on a day that I'm already struggling to make mental ends meet, deciding what to blog about then pulling it together (when I do, which I sometimes basically don't) takes a lot out of me. Rather than just decide not to update for a week (I've done that before, it makes me feel shitty) I think having a week of pre-scheduled posts will feel a bit more like a weight lifted, a pleasant knowledge that I'm getting something done on schedule just by existing, and having had a good Saturday.

Energy and distraction

I’m writing this post on Saturday, when I should definitely be working on my finals.

One of the problems I have is that sometimes it’s really hard for me to sit down and work on something. Like my finals. But I’ll be overflowing with energy to work on something else, like the student group that I’m trying to put together to organize Hampshire’s information-based resources.

At times like this, I often feel like I shouldn’t be working. Like, there’s the thing that I’m not working on, and somebody’s eventually going to ask “Why didn’t you work on it,” and if the answer isn’t “I literally couldn’t work on anything” it won’t be good enough. That’s my fear. And if that time comes and what I have to say is “I did this other thing instead,” my failure to complete the thing will be deemed unacceptable.

But that’s the path of spiraling depression and anxiety. My experience has been that whenever I refuse to work on the thing I feel motivated to work on just because I can’t motivate myself to work on the thing I need to get done, I end up triggering a lot of even more terrible shit.

On the other hand, getting things done energizes me. It makes me feel good about myself. And usually the thing that I have the energy for is something actionable, something that I can put into the world, something I’ll feel good about.

Solarpunk Press came out of that. All my best work at the Observer came out of that. All my best work on anything came out of that, because there never isn’t something else I could be doing – there are always things I could point to and say “Because I’m not doing that, I should do nothing.”

But that’s a deeply irrational and self-destructive way of thinking, built on the idea that I’m supposed to find people to subordinate myself to and attempt to act in accordance with the idea that my value to them is my value full stop. (See: Capitalism.)

I’ve written a lot today. I’ve created a lot today. This has been an energetic burst that has left me feeling better about my future here at Hampshire and in general than I would have thought was possible last week. And part of that has been letting my finals crunch get even crunchier, but the way I see it, that was going to happen anyway – my choices today weren’t Work on This or Work on Finals; they were Work on This or Lay in Bed Screaming Internally as Fear and Guilt Worm Their Way Into Every Part Of My Mind.

Courseload

I think I'm only going to take, like, 2 actual classes next semester -- right now I'm only enrolled in one, and there's another one that's instructor permission only that I might get into. I plan on passing Div II by the end of next school year, and assuming I get evals for all my classes next semester, I only need 3 more to do that.

I'm going to be signing (basically being an officer for) two student groups, one of which I'm also going to be founding. I will have more information about that soon, and I'm excited. I've also got Solarpunk Press to think about, which I'd like to be able to spend more than shreds of time on.

I spent most of today working on the materials for that student group. We're doing an announcement on Monday.

Ascended procrastination

Remember what I said about procrastinating by working on my Div III last Friday? My Narrative Frustration professor suggested today that I change direction and work on that for my final there. So suddenly that progress has turned meaningful!

I'm going to be outlining details about the four alternative communities along the northeast megalopolis in 2030 that my novel is going to follow. I'll probably post updates about that here as they come along, because I'm pretty excited about it!

Advanced procrastination

I've been having a hard time lately. For big chunks of time I haven't been able to focus on my work at all. Earlier this week I took a day off classes just to do self-care, and that went really immensely badly.

I've gotten a few small chunks of work done, and some of them have even been on the finals I have due all in the next two weeks. 

But I've made some pretty huge leaps forward on my plans for my Div III, which doesn't start until the 2017-18 academic year, including developing my own system of citation.

Photos from "Building the Cooperative Economy: An Unpanel"

Damn, I've been on a roll this week. Two days in a row of posts that took my illness and anxiety and turned them into wholly constructive posts.

Today's not going to be one of those days. I'm in the middle of the only two free hours I have scheduled today and I need to use them to finish an essay. I'm not in crisis, I just can't prioritize my blog today.

Here are some photos I took at a recent event, "Building the Cooperative Economy: An Unpanel."

Class-like activities

I'm working on a pitch for an EPEC -- an "Experimental Program in Education and Community" -- for next semester, which is basically like a class without a teacher. The tentative title I have on the whiteboard I've started writing for it is "Aesthetic Fugue." 

The idea is a creative writing workshop that focuses less on the work produced and more on the experience and practice of the writing itself. I'm hoping I can get a handful of other creative writing people involved, and we can come up with a bunch of different ways we can try experimenting with our process, ideally starting to figure out (a.) what works for us and what doesn't, and more importantly (b.) how to evaluate fluently whether something is working for us.

If I get it off the ground I'm sure I'll write about it a lot next semester.

Unanticipated rest

I had so many things to do today! After my first class, I needed to go eat lunch, then go to the library and write a new draft of the story I have to turn in tonight, then print 20 copies of it, pick up the contact cement that's in the mail for me, and start working on carving the T-shirt stamp for Solarpunk Press. Before all that, though, I had to use ear drops that require me to lay on my side for 5 minutes.

So... I took a 3-hour nap after the ear drops.

I did some of the things, after that, but mostly today's been pretty low on achievements. 

I'm going to assume that I really needed the rest.

UPDATE: How I managed splitting the pdf

What I ended up doing was dropping each page of the PDF into an indesign file and printing that to a new PDF. I used half-pages forming full page spreads starting on page 2, and dropped in the PDF with import options checked, so I could do all pages. Then I just added pages and dropped images until I ran out of PDF pages, and manually moved each one so the text fell within separate pages. I deleted the extra bits at the beginning and end that were holdovers from other sections of the book and not part of the assigned reading, and I printed by pages rather than spreads, stretching to fill. Now I've got a 39 page doc that's going to be way less of a pain in the ass than the 20 page doc was.

college tips page: coming soon?

I'm a first-gen college student. As a result, there are a lot of things (like, TONS of things) that most people seem to just already know about college, that I had no idea about. There are also a lot of things that are just hard to figure out that I think everyone struggles with. And since new college students are a basically infinite resource, tips on how to handle things in college might be a really helpful page to put together. 

The thing I'm working on figuring out right now is dealing with PDFs for readings: right now almost all my classes assign 30 or so pages per class of PDFs that are just scanned spreads from books, which is incredibly annoying to read on screen -- either I have to zoom out far enough to make the text annoying to read, or zoom in far enough that I have to scroll up and down multiple times per page. These minor inconveniences build up to a huge amount of cognitive friction over the course of 100-ish pages a week.

I'm trying to figure out an easy way to take those PDFs and hack each page into two pages, split down the middle and correctly stacked.

So far this strategy looks like it'll work if I manually crop every page so that the split is actually in the middle of the image. I'm gonna try that and see if it's a huge pain in the ass, or just a minor one. If it works, I might do a write-up about it.

Found an empty room with a whiteboard

I spent about three hours in an empty classroom today with a few dry erase markers, and it was a fantastic use of my time.

I'm working on the scripts for Solarpunk Press's upcoming video series, and it turns out it's really hard to come up with how to explain something you've been spending all of your time on as if it's something you've never heard of. Or knowing it's something your audience has never heard of. Or something.

Anyway, it's really useful work because I need to get a lot better at explaining solarpunk. And also I need to record those videos. And probably get better at scripting for film.

Shintaro Ohata's "Happy Birthday?"

I'm writing an essay for my Queer Feelings class right now, that's supposed to analyze a piece of art of some kind through the lens of the texts we've read so far. This is distinguished from the Mix Tapes assignments, in which we have to write an essay on a song, through the lens of just one of the texts. 

I'm writing about Shintaro Ohata's "Happy Birthday?," a painting/sculpture of a young girl having a birthday cake alone. It's one of a gorgeous series and I strongly recommend checking out that link and looking through them.

Hampshire College 2016 Course Catalog

I spent most of this weekend doing stuff in InDesign, during which time I learned a lot of new skills, missed a lot of sleep, and made this:

The image and this link are both to a PDF of the document. The table of contents is fully linked so you can click any course name and it'll take you straight to the page.  

Because Hampshire College's system for looking up available courses is sort of terrible, I got annoyed and took the results of a search for all classes and made it into a properly formatted InDesign file. Then I exported it as a PDF and I've been sharing it with people. 

For SEO purposes: If you're looking for Hampshire College course listings, for Fall 2016, of the 2016-2017 school year, this is a PDF of the course catalog. 

Intro to photography

Did I promise yesterday not to keep writing about how tired I am? I can't remember. I'm too tired.

Today was the first day I got to take photos for an event at my new job, which was a lot of fun. I think I did a pretty good job -- although I realized later on that I had the lighting settings really, really badly wrong, and all the pictures came out incredibly dark. Fortunately, Adobe Lightroom made that easy to fix.

I have the camera checked out for the rest of the weekend, so I'm going to be using it to record the first vlog for Solarpunk Press's hiatus. Hopefully I will get fewer things wrong then.

Ear ring

My left ear has been ringing today, pretty much all day. I'm very worried about it because over break and last summer this was the precursor to unbearable bouts of vertigo almost every night, building to the point where for large chunks of every day I could barely move. 

So today has been a pretty extremely high anxiety day -- not only is the ringing distracting from reading (which I'm behind on) and not only is it making me extra-irritable (which is not great for living with other people) but I basically can't hear people sitting on my left unless I'm paying extra attention and they're speaking very clearly and there's no other sound going on. And in my writing workshop class, tonight, when my story was being critiqued, there was a nonzero number of people on my left.

I may have missed some things, and I'm frustrated by that.

LGBTQIAAP+ Health insurance

I spent about an hour tonight talking to one of my modmates about insurance -- specifically, about the hypothetical priorities of a hypothetical insurance company that primarily focused on the healthcare needs of LGBTQIAAP+ people, as well as mentally ill and neurodivergent people. 

Our first priority -- the first thought that led into the conversation -- was that the people who pick up the phone should be trained to be conscious of, and sensitive to, the needs of mentally ill, neurodivergent, and LGBTQIAAP+ callers. That means getting pronouns right, having the skills to help depressed or anxious people through difficult conversations, and just generally knowing what they're talking about.

It's always kind of infuriated me that the people who answer the phones at health insurance companies aren't equipped to handle people calling when they have mental illnesses. Like, these are the people whose job is to facilitate my getting treatment, and they are some of the most triggering people to call in terms of anxiety spirals.

We spread out into a ton of different topics, and have arrived at the point where we honestly want to do a little research and see how possible this idea is. (So we can write up a proposal and shove it into the hands of someone who has the time and expertise to do it.)

Entropy and Externalization

I started writing an essay yesterday, called "Entropy and externalization in visions of utopia," but I hit a brick wall after about three pages. 

The basic idea is talking about the idea of harm in society as entropy, and externalized costs as a way of masking the inevitable increase of entropy within a closed system. My point is to argue that the idea of utopia is problematic because it breaks the laws of physics, sort of metaphorically but also sort of literally, and that it's important to focus on harm reduction rather than focusing on theoretical perfections.

My lit professor has my draft right now, she's going to give me feedback and hopefully that'll help me figure out how to keep going.