It occurred to me this morning that recently I've been living like a college student. I don't mean that I've been going to beer-saturated frat parties, having meals made for me at a cafeteria, and futilely trying to sleep through the thump-thump-thump of stereos playing too loud in the dorm. Rather, what I mean is that I've been approaching my life something like this:
This is not a great way to live. Indeed, my Freshman year of college, I didn't live that way. I remember people really being annoyed with me when I would tell them at 10PM or so that I was done with my homework and was going to bed. (The thump-thump-thump made that hard, but I had a white noise generator to help (i.e. a fan).) How could I be done? they would ask. The answer had more to do with starting than with finishing, really. You will be happy to know that by sophomore year I de-squarified a bit, and started to live more like a traditional college student— that is, according to the diagram above. I've observed a number of college students both when I was in college and since then living according to this plan.
Why am I living like this right now? It's not good. Especially since a bunch of the things I need to get done aren't "due," per se, which means that I never make progress on them. An utter lack of motivation to get stuff done is one of the major effects of a clinical depression, of course. It is also an effect of one of the things that's driven me into a clinical depression, that is, the sense that I have no future at Vanderbilt or in academia, and don't have enough control over my situation (thanks to the terribly competitive situation of grants) to be able to create a future. This has seriously damaged my motivation to get things done that don't have a due date on them for at least a year, and perhaps two, which of course just feeds into a vicious cycle of being in a worse position....
I realized this morning that I am just completing things as I have to, and that I"m not getting ahead on anything. It's a stressful way to live. The thing is, when you live like that as a college student, you have the end of the semester to look forward to. You've got a really big crunch, and then it's over and you get to start with a clean slate. In real life, we don't have that. I've been living like a college student for too long without an "end of a semester" to tie off everything I'm working on. (There are, of course, ends of semesters for classes, but they don't represent the vast majority of my responsibilities now they way they do for a college student.)