How I got here, or “You couldn’t have it all” (part 1)

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Along the way, I realized that more specifically, I wanted to be a historian. The logical step was for me to study History, right? Somehow I decided that while I was very firm on the history thing, first I wanted to gain a little more perspective on the other stuff that interested me very much: mainly philosophy, literature, and Latin America.

So the best choice for me was enrolling in Latin American Studies: on the first couple of years of the program I’d gain further insight on philosophy and literature, while all through the four years of it I’d develop a sense of what Latin America is, and I’d still be able to focus most of my subjects in history. It really sounded like a win-win! And…well, it is, except for a couple of details that nobody mentions when you sign on for this particular major.

First off, you have to deal with constant input from all kinds of different subjects that are always very fascinating. You’ll not only have philosophy, literature and history, you’ll also have economics and geography and composition and even a sprinkle of psychology, not to mention ethnology, anthropology, and aesthetic appreciation. This is all very good, what humanist in their right mind wouldn’t enjoy this kind of education? The problem is that you can’t possibly become a specialist in all of these areas. Usually if you want to succeed in your profession, you have to stand out in some area. In my experience, most teachers try to resolve this issue among anxiety-stricken students by throwing-in the word interdisciplinarity out in the open like it was nothing, as if it came as a natural consequence of taking a bit from here and a tad from there. Instead, I see it as some kind of philosopher’s stone: it’s practically unachievable and it means something different to every latinoamericanist, yet it is the quest for it that matters.

Going back to all the different options you have when you enter this particular major in this particular school:  imagine going to the best restaurant in town, and the waitress brings you everything that looks good on the menu. You can’t possibly eat 8 or 9 dishes but they bring them anyways. From then on, your dinner can go in many different ways: you can devour your first dish ’cause it’s so delicious, only to find out you can’t take more than a tablespoon of the rest. You could decide to stick with 3 or 4 plates and moderately enjoy them, each one has a specific seasoning and yet they all seem to work together. You could try out all of them but save your stomach for dessert or whatever dish you think is best. Or, you can be naive and try to eat them all out, you’ll probably not only end up with indigestion but you won’t remember each plate individually, their particular tone and spark will probably be lost.

The biggest problem is that at UNAM, where I went to school, you don’t have a counselor. At all. There is no one to warn, help or guide you about the different paths you might take. And so, you start dinner with nothing but hunger, only to discover midway through it that you need a plan if you don’t want to end up passed out, drinking Pepto-Bismol out of the bottle, or acknowledging you simply didn’t enjoy it as much as you could have done.

Some of us are lucky enough to know what we want to do with our time at the faculty, and this helps us whenever we get so overwhelmed we don’t know what to do. However, the profile of a lad who enters this major is that of a confused person who doesn’t really know what to do with their life, or more exactly, can’t decide what plate to order, so s/he thinks is a good option to go where they serve you everything at once.

This, my friends, is a recipe for disaster. As far as I know, there are 14 majors in my faculty. Wanna take a wild guess at which has the lowest graduation percentages? Not surprisingly, that would be Latin American Studies. Half the people drop out, another part changes majors, and the ones who remain simply don’t graduate…ever.

Now, even when the graduation thing is a related topic, I think it deserves an explanation of its own since it’s a whole other level of crazy (which in my case ended up with the creation of the Frankenthesis). So, I’ll leave that for another post, stay tuned!

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Writing a thesis while being depressed, mission impossible?

If you read the title of this post and expect to find an answer for the question I presented, I’m sorry because I will disappoint you, I’m getting good at disappointing people. I haven’t excelled in writing my thesis, no matter what the high expectations everybody had on me, but once my dissertation was in the mix together with severe depression, that’s when I really lost sight of how to do what needed to be done to get where I wanted to go.  Some days I don’t even know why I keep trying. On the bright side, this is not happening every freaking day like it used to, now the really gloomy days appear to come less often than the grey ones. The bright, happy ones are still a gift I’ve yet to receive.

It’s funny I should be thinking of this issue today, writing about it, when I actually managed to get a lot of work done. Well, a lot compared to my other days, because it was nothing compared to what I used to produce when I was more functional. Maybe that’s just the point, I feel intellectually tired and ready to pop a movie and just relax, like I had an incredible amount of work finished, but the fact is when I looked at what I did, I felt completely miserable because of how little it seems, and it’s not difficult to go from there to self harm for me.

Today I had pretty strong thoughts of doing exactly that instead of going to therapy, fortunately it wasn’t like other occasions when I can’t think of anything else and I end up falling for what in that moment seems like the easy way out… in the end I dragged my ass to shrinky’s office. Maybe I’m not being completely straightforward, I was feeling miserable in the first place because I didn’t go to work. I have a deadline due on Friday and I knew there was no possible way to get my chapter finished and my pending stuff from work if I didn’t force my schedule a little bit (working as a teacher means you’ll always take a lot of work home). This makes me feel like a complete failure, like I’m failing all around my responsibilities, and well, that’s sort of the train of thoughts I was riding when I wanted to cut myself.

Shrinky told me some stuff that I didn’t want to hear and didn’t help much at that time, but now is making me feel a little better. He said I’m too hard on myself, verging on cruel, and that for me it’s always about being the best or being nothing at all. There’s no in-betweens, and when I dare to not be the best, my self-hatred is so strong that all I can think about is hurting me. He reminded me of everything I’ve dealt with in this past month and how it’s perfectly natural if I can’t meet my deadline…still feels like I’m an utter failure, but it’s helping me get a hold of myself.

Back to what I was talking about before I started rambling, I guess I’m just wondering out loud how I can deal with these two things that are eating me up. One is my Frankenthesis (a term coined during T, because my own creation is turning against me), and the other is my depression. Somehow, they’ve become bff’s, allies in putting me down and keeping me from moving on. And don’t get me wrong, I know I am doing just that, except that it’s not at the pace I’d like to, not at the pace everyone expected from me. Generally speaking, I am better than I was months ago, it’s just I’d like to be free from these plummets and get on with my life!

So if you have any thoughts as to how I can deal with writing a thesis while being depressed, do let me know! Pretty please?

Related posts:

If you found this post by googling key words such as “dissertation depression”  or “I am afraid of my dissertation”, these readings might help (thanks to @carmenmccain for bringing them to my attention):

Stray Bullet

I’ve managed to do it again. Self sabotage is apparently something I can never get enough of. I was supposed to meet my tutor today to show her my progress on the chapter I’m currently working in. The meeting was just an hour after I leave work so I had to run to get there…just to tell her I had left at home the above mentioned progress (not that it was anything to be proud of in the first place). At first I hoped it wouldn’t matter all that much since we had to get into the corrections I thought she was going to give me from the last chapter I handed in…but it turns out she’s only going to give me those after I hand everything in. So basically the meeting was pointless and I could see she was mad, and she had every reason to be so. Come to think about it, a lot of people have good reasons to be mad art me…including me.

I just don’t know what to do with myself… and all I feel like doing is listening to Manu Chao, maybe he can make things a little bit better tonight.

The lyrics on this song go more or less like this:

My life… little light with no candle

My blood from the wound

Don’t make me suffer anymore

My life…stray bullet

Through the highway

Slum puddle

I don’t want you to go

I don’t want you to move away

Every day a little more

My life…little light with no candle

My life…dark water puddle

Soap bubble

My last refuge

My last hope

I don’t want you to move further away each day

My life… little light with no candle

My blood from the wound

My life

Don’t make me suffer no more

Chaotic Organization

I can’t seem to balance what I want to do with what I have to do and what others want me to do, such as having to work, having to finish my thesis, while hoping to one day (that seems to be further away each day) being able to do the things I actually want. All of this, having people pushing and pushing on one side for me to finish this antiquated rite of passage while on the other I have more (if not the same) people expecting me to be able to meet economic responsibilities that started long ago before I could manage them and continue even when I never really had the proper  time to mentally and pragmatically prepare for them. I feel like I am being forced to bake a cake without the proper ingredients (not that I will ever do such a thing).

Still, I also don’t feel like I have plausible reasons to bitch about it ’cause the way I see it, the situation here in Mexico is getting darker and darker by the moment, and I’ll hopefully be writing about it soon enough, since right now I’m stealing hours from my most needed sleep to catch up on my other writing, the one I keep talking about but stays offline.

And about that, I’ve been thinking about creating an anonymous blog, maybe that could be more helpful to me and definitely more entertaining. I of course will not be linking it to this one but I thought I’d share the news anyways. It may sound like I have all the time in the world to spam my two readers with my babbling, but I guess it’s just a matter of getting my sh*t together.

I will however promise myself to work on my organizational skills all through the month the remaining week and see if it sticks, since this Monday was my first day at a new job doing something I had kinda thought I wouldn’t do again: teach English to elementary kids. This will require me to force my usual chaotic self to take a hike at least in the mornings, I’ll report on the results.

In the meantime, here’s the first image I have of one of my students:

Image