I arrived back in St. John’s a couple of weeks ago. I am taking it a bit easier now after having gone around the city to get supplies and planning for my field work over the last couple of months. I am waiting for the samples that I collected in Labrador to return to MUN so that I can begin the next portion of my research: separating beetle remains from peat moss and other organic debris. While I am waiting for the samples to arrive, I am working at a restaurant downtown, serving, and enjoying the summer weather in the city.
Being up in Labrador and the process of field work was a lot of fun, but it also did not go how I had expected. In my head, my work was going to take place over 2 days (4 days maximum) because we would immediately find what we were looking for and retrieve it with little to no issue. This is of course not how it happened. That is a story that I would like to get into during my next post. Here I would like to talk about something relating to my last post about connecting to fascinations leading to a kind of personal remembering and getting in touch with interests and hobbies that I have had throughout my life. Another side of that is how interests I have had throughout my life have recently become fixations and serious distractions. These are things that are so close and comforting that I have not only turned to them but have indulged and completely immersed myself in their worlds.
When I am stressed, or have been reading or writing for a while, I will de-stress by reading or focusing on something other than what is in front of me. A big thing in my life during this time of year has always been the beginning of football season. I have been a football fan for as long as I can remember, and the sport has brought me a lot of comfort throughout my life. I read about football throughout the year, but more so beginning around August as the season starts up again. I have also been playing Fantasy Football for around 10 years, which has meant that I spend more time reading about things like “the play calling tendencies of certain teams in different situations” as the season progresses. I love football, and the more I read into the finer points of the game, the more I love it.
Along with this is, that I can be very competitive. I love playing games, and Fantasy Football is a game that is takes place in a world that I care so much about. The drive to win leads to hours of binging football content, trying to get a leg up on my opponents, while also feeding my desire to know more about the game. Success in these leagues validates my spending so much time reading about football and encourages more.
In response to some of the stresses of this past year in graduate school, I turned to football. Time that I could have been spending on thesis research was, instead, spent on football research. It was an easier and more immediately gratifying work. I wasn’t making time for very many other things at certain points, and it was hard for me to stay focused on class assignments. Further, I let football operate as my main coping mechanism, which lead to a degree of emotional volatility based around the going-ons in my Fantasy Football leagues, as well as in my personal team fandom. When things weren’t going well with football, I became emotionally distant. When things were going well, then I was in a good way. I had let this thing that I love so much, that is so much a part of me, have too much control over my internal world.
While the time I spent on football research led to a lot of immediate gratification, there was always a sick kind of feeling associated with it. I knew that I was taking myself away from my responsibilities. While this one thing was offering me a lot of comfort, there was this other thing in the back of my chest that was aware of what was happening. Each minute I spent on football was a minute less I could spend attending to my responsibilities, and this other thing lives inside me, in my back, repeatedly poking my insides until I pull myself back on track. This is the haunting of a procrastinator.
This distraction wasn’t making me happy. The sensation was something like falling back into a dry well, where I lived in a world away from everybody else. I need people, and it felt like I couldn’t reach anybody.
I don’t blame this entirely on football, or even Fantasy Football. Though those things enabled me to leave, the stress I was experiencing was something that I don’t think I was necessarily ready for. It has gotten easier to manage over time. I have gotten better at managing my distractions and keeping a healthy work-life balance.
I have talked a lot about the stress I’ve experienced in graduate school in these blog entries so far, in part because it’s something that I am still coping with. I am reflecting on what was so difficult and how I responded to those difficulties so that I can enter this next year more prepared to cope with future stresses. Part of this for me is eliminating distractions. I love Fantasy Football, but I can’t exist in that world while I am trying to finish my thesis research. I know that now. For the first time in 10 years I am not going to play. I am going to stick to my fandom of the team I follow and keep it at that. I never want to remove football from my life, but this way I can help my relationships between both myself-and-football and myself-and-academia. I’m not approaching this necessarily as a total solution to tackling research-efficiency or a positive work-life balance, but I am seeing what else this may bring up.
I look forward to continuing to share my experience in graduate school with you all. I will be blogging again for this upcoming Fall semester. Feel free to reach out if you have anything you’d like to talk about!
All the best,