Sometimes I feel like my life is stitched together by to-do lists, and when they become longer and longer, they risk unravelling, knotting themselves into untidy jumbles of unaccomplished tasks. Then, as a consequence, life’s daily operation begins to lose some of its well-knit wholeness, becomes scattered and the list/s are remade, things must be done, crossed off, or given up on and yes, life goes on… Some of these tasks are mundane, like ‘buy more tea’, and they sit on top of weightier ones, ‘do essay’, or ‘write blog post’. Their humble equality on the list belies their significance in the real world, and yet I wonder if sometimes the build-up to finishing some of those weightier tasks is undue. Like finishing an essay, or two, the erasing of that on the to-do list, after so much muddled thought, procrastination, stress, and the hours that tick away, the few words on a few pieces of paper that stream out warm from the printer amid the bright lights of the library, seem insufficient. The quietness that accompanies the writing process, and even the giving in of those few bits of paper… I almost always feel as if I’d expected more, like someone to clap, to pat me on my back, hand me a prize and rejoice with me in my little accomplishment. After all, I made such a big deal of it and that was it?
It seems like student life is filled with these idiosyncratic, lonely moments. After all, you’re told it’s not the real world and as a result, there are times when you realise, especially if you’re doing your postgraduate degree after a few years of that so-called real world, that you may just be overanalysing or at least that not everyone is reading into things as intently you are. Like a few days ago, when I was watching Ambassadors on TV, a British sitcom about diplomats working in some Central Asian country, I found myself doing some of this overanalysing. Having read a myriad of theories about power, the production of culture, media and the representation of others, my head was armed with a new set of intricate academic artillery, ready to blast apart any one-sided, narrowly distilled opinions that came my way.
I watched the show, the aim of which was evidently to make one laugh, wondering if I should laugh at these stereotyped characters. How was, I, as the audience, consuming these stereotyped characters and was it normalising a certain representation of a culture? Indeed, was the culture being portrayed, in the way that it was being portrayed, an example of a type of hegemonic discourse that was painting the West as some sort of superior, rational entity? As these critical thoughts honed themselves neatly in my mind, I became aware of how I was suppressing my laughter. Awkwardly, as I sat there on my own, I decided to let go and laugh, suddenly enjoying my consumption of unrevolutionary comedic drama. I thought back to a party I had been at some point a couple weeks back and the way I had probably bored some poor guest with my discursive analysis of his claims about a book he was trying to tell me about. I really enjoy my class readings, they burst apart my neat conceptions of the world, re-order them surprisingly and distort illusions, lighting up new areas of discovery and thought. Yet, I’m also at risk of becoming, as one one of professors called it, an ‘undateable type’ at gatherings made up people who are not students from my course or academics (although, to be honest, I think I always was…).
As a result, after this (first of many?) deadline weeks from hell, I rebelliously took a break from class readings this weekend. Instead, I picked up a book that was totally unthreatening, a fictional tale, a brief escape to another world, indulging with some sense of guilt in my non-academic pursuit. The long to-do list awaits, complete with ‘finish readings for class’, ‘reply to…..’, ‘wash socks’, and ‘write up presentation’, but just for a few more hours I think I’ll turn my critical analysis mode down just a bit and see if I can simply enjoy the story.