I promised myself that I would write and read more during the summer, but so far, I don’t think I have done enough of it.
It may have a lot to do with the ~academic exhaustion~ I put myself through.
There are two different parts of ~academic exhaustion~. The first is that in a capitalistic society, every individual must work, work, work, work. But it’s not that every individual must work,it’s that every individual must be productive just the way capitalism demands it. No deviations are allowed.
For instance, let’s take the example of a college student and a single mother who is a housewife. Not unemployed. A housewife. My mother is a single mother who is a housewife and every time I go home, it boggles my mind how much she does, and (though has her moments like everyone else) stays very much mentally afloat.
As an undergraduate student who is studying the humanities, not only am I expected to study hard and have a good enough GPA, but I’m also expected to do things that boost my resume. The latter is a constant part of my anxiety. I’m part of student organizations that I’m passionate about (Muslim Student Association and Asian American Association for the most part), but being part of them also mean resume building. There have been moments when I have questioned myself if I stick to doing so much as part of student organizations because of my passion or because of the very real material advantages they could provide me. Leadership. Skill. Experience. All three of those are real. After all, I would not know how to work with people if it wasn’t for my involvement student organizations. I do a lot of management work for my student organization.
But that’s not all. Student org work easily take more than 4 hours out of my week. And then there are the classes and the homework. And the various jobs I have held down. I would have held down an internship too if I could afford it. But since I can’t, I juggle multiple jobs and hope for the best.
It’s all very exhausting. I’m used to getting too little sleep and functioning on too much coffee. Most students are. And this is what I call ~academic exhaustion~ part 1.
I like to think I have a solid resume. Not for any big shot job after college. But to survive entry level jobs. And then I compare my resume to my mother’s.
If I stop to think about it, the work that my mother and I do are very similar. She manages the house (I manage events and the organizational part of my student organization). She manages the finances (I work very closely with my org’s treasurer). She does a whole lot of driving around to keep everything running (isn’t that logistics or something in professional lingo?). She’s part of PTA and is a huge advocate of her own and her community’s children. But because it’s all for the sake of a home, and nothing that she does is ~professional~, her resume doesn’t count for shit. As such, she’s afraid to apply for jobs.
This, is how capitalism devalues one person and gives false hope to another. I have seen way too many peers graduate from college and go into barista jobs afterall.
Then there’s the second part of ~academic exhaustion~. Which doesn’t really have anything to do with academia, but much rather with the work of healing from trauma. I have been working on healing from my childhood sexual abuse, and the more recent upheavals between myself and my mother. I’m getting where I want to get, but being a college student while actively healing from trauma can be very exhausting at times. Especially for someone like me who likes to devote her energy into one project at a time.
Which brings me to the now. When I stepped into the summer and into the void when I didn’t have classes, my mind shut down. And by shut down I suppose I mean more that it silenced itself, rather than spiraled towards a break down.
Because there is so much to do at any given day during the academic year, and because my reading is so structured, I often don’t get to read what I want to. But I have been taking good classes and the material that comes to be is good. I usually skim them quickly to churn out a paper and file them away to pursue more diligently later.
Except my brain refused to process academic information for the first two months of the summer. And now it will be the last month of the summer in two days and I’m anxious that I haven’t pursued anything that I really wanted to.
Because my brain stayed blank and refused to concentrate on much, I sat a lot quietly on the deck and looked at the sky. (Or in case of my current job, where I paint and trim, I sat a lot and stared at blank walls). It felt as though my brain was recharging after a long drain. So I let it recharge. Read fiction. Tried to cook. Had a lot of monologues with myself. Slept a lot.
It strikes me that we don’t think much about the therapeutic nature and need for silence. Even though there are apps on our smart phones now which give us white noise so that we sleep more peacefully. But those experiences are neatly contained within a certain time frame. And I can’t help but wonder how that affects our mind.
The first couple of weeks, not having much to do and not being able to concentrate on much made me endlessly jittery and irritable. Had it been the school year, I would have found something to do. At times when I couldn’t concentrate on my academic work, I did paper work for my student organization. When I couldn’t do either, I slept.
There was no real time to be.
I don’t think people realize that many of us become fast paced because we’re forced into it as a habit. And just as we become fast paced habitually,so must we teach ourselves the habit of standing still. To be. And it doesn’t happen in a matter of days. Or during a journey to a far off state or country.
A state of being, wherein one finds peace at one’s core, is something to be cultivated. Like a garden. No doubt there are people who do it through their fast paced lives. But I wonder how many people exist in the in-between spectrum of needing to be in fast paced environments, and the need to be standing still, and if in a capitalist society, they really find time to figure it out.
Capitalism has a parochial, almost vulgar way of choking us by not giving us time to investigate our inner core. It strikes me that this is such a frightening kind of violence, because it does not really leave tangible evidence of its violence behind. It is a very difficult kind of violence to investigate. And that makes it the more terrifying.
But. As I was saying, I haven’t read and written much this summer. Yet it’s funny. I’m looking forward to spending a year being after I graduate just doing as much as I can. After all, I watched the documentary on Grace Lee and discovered Roxane Gay’s writing. I keep bookmarking activists and feminists and civil rights leaders to read later. It’s like hoarding a treasure for later. This is what I am going to do in peace when I have the time. And that time will come soon. In the meantime, I’ll be as productive as my body can be, and I’ll try to intellectually challenge myself.
It is quiet a lot of work to cultivate a habit. My current habit that I’m trying to cultivate is to remind myself that I must gauge and judge my production by my own standards, and not by capitalism’s.