I consider myself to be an exceptionally talented procrastinator. I don’t think this is an exaggeration – some people are talented singers or artists, mathematicians or writers – my talents lie in the ability to either a) ignore a situation – for years if need be, or b) to convince myself and others that I am ‘thinking about’ a situation & therefore NOT procrastinating nor ignoring.
For a PhD, or anything that has a component of thought built in, this technique works particularly well because ‘thinking’ about the task is an actual, real part of the process so one is able to kid oneself for a very long time that one is not, in fact, procrastinating. (Of course the immediate question that jumps to mind is just how much a part of the sophistication of my procrastination techniques is built into writing this very blog which is in fact is both revealing and engaging my ability at the same time).
At the moment I am facing a huge decision regarding my career. Although I have a well paid and permanent job that has no direct relationship to a PhD, I have always promised myself that I would, one day complete the degree and this was the year that I chose to start, three years into my shiny new high school teaching career. The two demands upon my time and intellectual resources were actually getting along quite well in the beginning, I was able to work on the PhD after (paid) job as well as on weekends. As my sons have both now left home, my time is my own and utilising in this way seemed a perfect fit for me and allowed me to procrastinate/consider my need to incorporate my need to do more exercise/quit smoking both of which I could legitimately ignore due to the new stress of ‘the PhD’ – see how committed I am to creating the perfect environment to ignore that which I don’t want to deal with? – it really is quite an art in my hands. I should be clear that although I love teaching, whether HS or university, I have been stuck teaching English for the past three years, which is not my discipline. Not that there is anything wrong with English – for those that love it – but my degree is not in English and my postgraduate studies are not in English, I am not drawn to English – and yet I am expected to get up every single day and go and teach and enthuse secondary students in their English studies. You see my problem. When I accepted my current position, I was very clear that I did not want a full English load. They assured me, that if I spent 2011 teaching English for them then they would have some teaching in my real discipline in 2012. But, a couple of weeks before the end of the year, I was allocated another full English load and, just to rub some extra salt in the wound, they hired someone from outside and gave them the subject/s that I was assured I would have. It was a shitty situation.
Enter the opportunity for academia to seem like a viable alternative for employment even though I will be taking part-time, adjuncting work (if I get any) together with some relief/sub work in local high schools. I will also need to move back to the city if I want to do this so I will be leaving behind a reasonable salary for (at best) part-time contract work in a far more tenuous environment that I am currently in … but, I will have my dignity intact right? And, I will get to ‘show’ my current job that I am not someone they can screw around with in this way .. right?
And, herein lies both my current problem and my current excuse extraordinaire for procrastinating. So while I am currently on holidays and in the perfect position to get some serious PhD work done, I am spending all of my time ‘thinking’, ‘musing’, considering’ or .. the best one .. ‘researching my options’ (read spending hours upon hours online reading about how awful the academic job market is followed by one or two excellent blogs about ‘following your dreams’). If I am not careful, I will have wasted 6 weeks in this way and STILL not made a decision and that is scaring the hell out of me.
So, my point is this: talent is not always a good thing. Or, maybe it’s just that between the frying pan and the fire there is a scary netherworld on the rim.