Grad school features a cast of different characters. There are those that take notes diligently, do the assignments on time, and study well in advance for exams. There are others who work late into the evenings and submit assignments at the eleventh hour. On the outside, I look like the perfectly-put-together first type of student, but on the inside—and pardon my language—I just have a giant stick shoved up my a** (in the sense that I can be painfully rigid/ inflexible).
Because of the pandemic-related changes to the “classroom” experience, one of my professors was a little late in posting the syllabus and finalizing the assignments. In a reassuring tone, she told us that we should not become so fixated on the page numbers of the readings, instead we should read more of what interests us. To others, she may have won the professor-of-the-year award, but to me, it’s hard to think of anything more stressful.
For some background, in this course, we meet once a week and have a list of book titles that we will cover week-by-week throughout the semester. Coming up, the schedule shows that we have 5 books and 2 articles due in one week’s time — an impossible load. The professor informed us that she would narrow down the readings within the next few days, so that the 5 books would become specific chapters from each book. This is all very reasonable and the professor will give us the details in “good time.” She’s kind, understanding, and willing to help out her students. Who would have a problem with this? Oh, right, me, because as I mentioned, I have the world’s largest stick lodged up my you-know-where. I just work better with more concrete guidelines.
Dear Reader, I am the problem. I love people who can go with the flow but I am not one of these pleasant souls. I am neither easy going nor laid back. The problem is, I’m just too serious… like a STEMI (aka, an acute “ST-elevation myocardial infarction,” aka, a major heart attack). (Serious people can still make jokes!).
I am not only a full-time graduate student, but I work, and have a lot of random (super important) hobbies. I like to do a lot of things and it is important to me that I can focus my energy into what I do. To make this possible, it is very helpful for me when I can schedule activities in advance and prioritize tasks for when my brain is most suited to approach them (more here). This tendency of mine, namely my preference to stick to routines and try my best to fulfill both internal and external commitments, makes me a stereotypical Upholder (more here). I embrace my type, but also realize that some adjustments are needed to live most happily. Now, if only I can dislodge this stick from my bum….
So, now that I have introduced the “stick” problem (aka my inflexibility and uptight-ness), for your entertainment, here is the shtick:
I go to my primary care physician about the stick and ask if she can remove it. Horrified, she sends me off to an orthopedic surgeon.
I go to see the orthopedic surgeon and ask him if he can help me get rid of the stick. He takes a scan, says that the stick is too close to my spine and that he cannot operate until the problem with my back is straightened out. He sends me to a chiropractor.
So, I go to see the chiropractor and ask him if he can straighten out the problem with my back. The chiropractor feels around my back and concludes that he cannot proceed because the stick is wrapped up around my digestive tract. He sends me to a gastroenterologist.
So, I go to see the gastroenterologist and ask her if she can help me get rid of the stick. She runs a few tests and concludes that she cannot remove the stick from my intestines until it is safely dislodged from my brain. She sends me to a neurologist.
So, I go to see the neurologist about the stick. She takes an MRI and tells me that the stick is all in my head.
I tell her, that I know that the stick is all in my head and that’s why I came to her in the first place.
She clarifies that the there is no literal “stick” in my head and that this whole “shtick” is all in my head.
Upon the realization that there is no literal “stick” and that everything thus far has been a “shtick,” I turn to the neurologist and… she’s gone… I guess it was literally all in my head.
My inflexibility is something that I can control. Luckily, removing the stick is as “simple” as a change in attitude and expectations. I will never be a go-with-the-flow, whenever-is-fine, let’s-just-play-it-by-ear type of human, but, I also do not have to let this stick prematurely turn me into a total curmudgeon. I should be appreciative of my professor’s laid-back attitude.
I’ll try to loosen up… but it won’t be easy.
P.S. if you too are suffering from a stuck stick, the doctors in my head recommend yoga, meditation, and cardio exercises to help alleviate symptoms 🙂