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February 25, 2014

We’re just going in circles

If life is a wheel, then we’re along for the ride.

As of yesterday, I’m on a productivity kick. My laptop broke, but that didn’t stop me from sitting in front of a computer for hours on end. The unfamiliarity of the towering keys of the Reg computers made me hyperaware of my fingertips so that as they depressed I never digressed as I watched the clock in the bottom right corner steadily move from 11 to 12 to one and as I dragged and dropped Punnett squares. I realized that I felt like a first-year again, studying smoothly and efficiently as if the machine in my head had been newly oiled. And then I realized that I had been in a productivity slump for the entire last quarter.

During first year I would occasionally experience slumps that would sabotage my progress for a week or two. And when I recognized this pattern, my excitement at hitting my stride again was always tempered with the knowledge that I would relapse into the numbing embrace of procrastination in a matter of weeks. It was like I was a pendulum; when I was on the left side, I would study just fine, but it was only a matter of time before I swung back to the right side and would somehow, inexplicably, let an entire weekend slip through my fingers.

This has always troubled me, but it especially troubled me when I realized that the swings of the pendulum have become larger, so that not only am I doomed to relapse, but also every time that I do I will relapse for a longer period of time. And my productivity swings are not guaranteed the same trend—I personally have no idea how long this one will last (a day or two? A week? Let’s hope for a month).

I wrote everything above this about a month ago. I can tell you now that it only lasted a couple of days, and I continue to be routinely perplexed and frustrated at the hours I whittle away each day.

Life seems to follow these cyclical patterns, and every time I’m content I know that I only need to fall asleep and wake up in the morning to no longer be so. It’s enough to give me a distinct feeling of fatalism—a feeling that whatever agency I exert is only enough to cause a momentary blip in the course of a wheel which infallibly, inevitably continues to turn.

I was two the first time I poked my eye by running into something. It hurt a lot and I hated it. But a new type of dread settled in as I poked my eye a couple more times throughout my childhood. As I shut my eyes, waiting for the stinging to fade, I knew that this would not be the last time that I accidentally poked my eye, and even as the pain faded it was only temporary respite until the next time it came back. Because even if I tried to avoid poking my eye like those Greek heroes of mythology tried to escape their fates, given my human carelessness and lifespan, it was inevitable I’d experience the same pain again at some point.

Somehow I’ve been living under the impression that problems are solved in a temporally linear fashion, and that pain is one of those problems to be solved and then be done with for the rest of my life. The life to which I should aspire is one that is under my control and, although not free from toil, free from suffering. But seeing the undulations of that cycle lying immovable ahead of me, perhaps I need to realize that pain and frustration are not things to be overcome in life, but intrinsic parts of it.

Eleanor is a second-year in the College majoring in English.

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