I, Dear Readers, have fallen into a rut.
When I first told everyone I was going to grad school, the first response generally: You’re moving to Scotland?! What does NTS think about moving to Scotland?
The second question was: What will NTS do in Scotland? He’s going with you, right? (The consensus, somehow, was that he would end up as a bartender, though a stubborn minority held out for sheep herding.)
The third question, though, was invariably: How do you keep working on a project every day for three years? How do you motivate yourself? I could never do that.*
* If the first two seem a little husband-centric, it’s because no one who knows me was actually surprised to find out I was going for a PhD. Honestly, they weren’t that surprised that it involved leaving the country for an extended period of time, either, since that’s something I seem to do every four years. It’s a funny sort of circadian rhythm involving wanderlust, actual wandering and heimweh–the longing for home.
I didn’t really understand the question, to be honest. I was never a works-well-with-others type, so setting my own schedule appealed to me just fine. (I was also the one likely to go do my high school math exercises sitting on top of my desk in the back row, which somehow didn’t bother my teacher at all. I never really got the hang of standard furniture.) Having worked in an office for three years–two of them quite happily–I decided that I would just stick to nine-to-five workweek and everything would work out fine. Ok, my office job was eight to five, but even imaginary diligence has its limits. But I had confidence. I did get through my undergrad with honors; obviously I had some sort of system for getting through everything.
In double hindsight, on the other side of last year’s MSc degree, I recall some details that had previously escaped my mind. Like the fact that said system involved staying up until one or two in the morning Sunday nights to do calculus problem sets, and that going to a party first and writing a paper afterward somehow works out fine when you’re nineteen. It’s not until your mid-twenties that you realise that you actually like sleep.
Being in my (ahem) mid-twenties, and having determined through trail and red eyes that yes, I really do prefer to sleep at night and work not-when-I’m-supposed-to-be-sleeping, I determined that for my doctorate, I would keep work and home life well separate. Having an office in the department aided this decision, being much handier for working than the undergrad library. I go into the office almost every day. This has resulted in a several-fold increase in interactions with colleagues, which is a decided improvement. I may or may not spend part of the time I’m there researching tiny houses and medieval clothing practices, which is perhaps less helpful. I go to the office, I come home from the office.
You see where this is going: in a circle. In the same circle, where the variation is between walking and riding the bus, going along the park (nice, but windy) or the road. Stopping at the (affordable) whole foods shop on the way home. You get the picture.
But today, today I went to the bank. And to the pharmacy, because it’s on the way to the bank. And to another apothecary, where I bought tea, because I passed it walking to the bank. I also passed though part of Rose Street, down in New Town, which I usually only do when I’m going to the sporting goods stores. (“Hill-walking” and “trekking” — hiking — being very popular in Scotland, there are a number of shops catering to it in any tourist areas. I find this both more appealing and more dangerous than tartan tea towels and Scotsman’s kilt tee-shirts. Incidentally, do you know what’s worn under a Scotsman’s kilt? Nothing; everything is in perfect working order.) It’s a funny thing when you only go into the tourist section to do something as mundane as go to the bank.
So today I saw Edinburgh with new eyes, with tourist eyes. And as I always carry a carry a camera for your benefit, Dear Readers, you too can see New Town through my today eyes.
Today I start to reconsider whether my routine is helping me get things done, or making me stale. I don’t expect answers today, but at least I have questions. As every academic knows, you don’t get answers until you have questions.