Thursday, January 03, 2008

I think too much

I learned loads in college -- how to think critically, write well, walk far, and read for nuance. I learned how to be a journalist and a feminist. I ate when hungry and screamed when livid. I learned that it's possible to do anything one-handed as long as the other hand is clutching a coffee cup.

But there are different kinds of learning. I'm not a big believer in non-fiction for revelation -- fiction does it better -- but the book Gaining, by Aimee Liu, opened my eyes. (It was one of the books I ploughed through while procrastinating writing my senior thesis.) Here, she discusses a study that pinpointed factor increasing the likelihood of someone being at risk for an eating disorder:

The healthy group consisted of students and staff recruited from two London universities, and they scored about the same as the eating disordered patients on academic performance. Yet not one of the healthy subjects remembered agonizing over grades as a child, convincing herself she wasn't good enough, or filling with rage if her friends decided to change the rules of a game. Such reactions had been so typical of me as a child that I'd assumed they were true of anyone who did well in school -- or, later, of anyone who succeeded professionally.

...throughout my life... I had assumed that anyone who "achieved" did so with the help of an internal tyrant who established rigid standards, rules, routines, timetables, codes, and expectations... It never occurred to me that among other high achievers, compulsive perfectionists were the exception rather than the rule.
This is all a long-winded buildup to admitting that I spent my years in college working very hard, yes, and getting my shit together, but that all allowed me to avoid asking broader life questions. There is no time to consider what (and who) you want -- no time to desire -- as long as there is always more homework to do.

There's no homework anymore so, though my brain battles itself, I'm finally taking tentative steps toward learning what I want in life, love and (yes, I admit) sex. Because of the subjects' newness, I'm feeling simultaneously older and younger.

I planned to be more specific, but I've lost my resolve. More later?

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