Sunday, October 02, 2005

Back from the dark side of the moon . . .

. . . and boy was it an exhausting expedition.

September started out innocently enough. I was excited about *finally* being back in school full-time. I'd only been dreaming about it for the last 4 years or so. I bought all my books early and set up my study area at home. I bought breakfast foods so that I could grab something to eat before the commute in. Loads upon loads of laundry were done so that my student wardrobe would be all set. I was ready. Or so I thought.

The first thing that caught me off guard was physical exhaustion. I hadn't been that tired since the year I taught second grade. Like a big old nerd I was carrying two giant science textbooks along with some notebooks around. I had no clue how much walking I would be doing. According to the old NYC wisdom that 20 blocks equals a mile I was walking over a mile on some days. With the 30 pound backpack. The one hour commute each way probably had an impact too. All I know was that I was chronically tired those first two weeks.

Perhaps that's when I managed to start falling behind in my courses. I was studying at least a little bit every day so I felt that I was on top of things. But during the week of the 18th, things started to fall apart. I had both an Organic Chemistry and a Biology test coming up, on the 26th and 29th, respectively. When I sat down to figure out where I was at that week, I suddenly realized that I was not in good shape at all. A period of panic (but not much useful work) ensued.

I had an oboe lesson on Wednesday the 21st. I had been looking forward to it and was hoping it would help me recharge. Once we got the practice room door to finally open (there was an issue with my key) the lesson went off to a reasonably good start. But somewhere near the end I started struggling. At one point my teacher told me that I wasn't committed to doing the correct embouchure yet, that I could now form it but for some reason wasn't able to hold on to it. I was completely devastated. In hindsight I definitely read too much into it; she was just stating the obvious. But at that moment I felt like the world's biggest loser. I have been studying with her for a few months now and we've been talking about the embouchure since the second lesson. How could it be that I still hadn't managed to perfect it? I think I can say that the hour right after the lesson was the low point of my first month back at school. I walked out of the lesson with my little water container in hand (it was a baby food jar). Can you believe that it slipped out of my hand and onto the college steps, cracking in many pieces? I nearly lost it. I bent down and carefully picked up all the pieces and deposited them in a glass recycling bin and then I found a quiet corner on campus and wept. I felt just like that broken jar, shattered and useless. How could I still not be good at absolutely anything? It seemed that the only thing I was good at was being bad at many different things at the same time. How could I love music so much yet be undisciplined? How could I quit my lucrative job to go back to school and then fall behind within weeks? Why did I lose control of my health and appearance so that now I felt so frumpy, old, fat, and ugly next to all the young students at school? Have you ever had those moments? Where absolutely everything sucked? And then it was followed by guilt. How could I be there wallowing in self-pity when there are people all over the country and the world with real problems? That thought shook me up somewhat and I was able to continue plodding along.

I guess since I had reached a low point there was no where to go but up. But the climb up was not immediate. I studied hard for my Organic test that weekend. Yet when I went in on Monday I panicked and blanked out. I left the test knowing that I had not done very well. From there I went to study Biology with some others from the class. But again I was met with disappointment. They were clearly well caught up in class and were talking about things that I hadn't prepared yet. Feelings of dread were about to come over me again but I decided to take control of things instead. I excused myself and went off to a library to study what I needed to study. I realized I had two options for the Bio test. Stay unprepared and feel as badly as I did after the Orgo test or give it my all and try to actually do well. The latter seemed like an insurmountable task since I was quite behind in Biology but somehow I managed to study mostly non stop for about three days. I was nervous going into the test on Thursday but I tried to keep a positive attitude. Rather than sit and panic for 45 minutes like I did for Orgo, I dove right in. I opened the first page and just started writing (usually I look at the entire test first). After an excrutiating 100 minutes of thinking and writing the test was over and I was feeling GOOD! I think I may have actually aced it! Even if I don't though, I finally figured out how best to study for all of my classes. And now that I have things under control I am feeling much better.

I think I tend to get into these hopeless states when I lose control of the things I am supposed to do. Both my husband and I are sacrificing so much for me to have this opportunity. I can't afford to keep procrastinating and doing poorly. I have no excuses for it! I *must* learn proper time management as that will be the only way for me to do everything I want to do in the coming years.

So after feeling very horrible for about three weeks I am finally around the bend. Having learned how to study for my courses (which is the thing I am supposed to be doing) I am now feeling much better. Even the desire to practice my oboe daily has returned! Once I have those two things going I can add a few workouts a week and I will be golden.

Oh that was another thing. I did attempt to go to the gym nearly two weeks ago. And what happened? I somehow managed to strain or pull a neck/shoulder muscle and I am *still* in pain from it. Ugh!

And I did write to my teacher to tell her that I felt horrible about disappointing her at our last lesson. She wrote me a very nice email back and said that I was doing incredibly well and that I simply have too overly high expectations (I've heard that before *giggle*). She assured me that embouchure and the other things we've been discussing are things that take years to "perfect" and that I am certainly on the right track. *sigh of relief* As much as I do enjoy learning science my music is still the most important thing. It would absolutely break my heart if I never reached my musical goals. As long as I am on the right path for them I don't care how long it will take and I will be happy. And the rest of my life will be ok too.

The school did finally approve my commuter locker so I no longer have to break my back. Perhaps now my shoulder/neck will finally heal. I ended up getting a B on the Orgo test. Not great, but not overly bad either.

Ok not sure if this all came out very clearly but I am rushing to get it down before I head off to church. I will try to update more regularly now that things have mostly normalized.

Thanks for your support!


patty said...

My, my, my, you've had quite a time of it, haven't you? I'm sorry about all the school stuff, but going back to school would scare me to death so I can't even imagine! I'm guessing things will start to lighten up and you'll get the hang of the stress and schedule.

And FIRST ... go buy yourself a plastic container for reeds! A lot of oboe players use the Tupperware one that is small and comes with a little cap. I use film canisters, and I DON'T use a cap because not having that makes me empty the water every time and never end up with grungy water. You owe yourself a little reed soaking container. And they don't shatter! (I use a shot glass at home, but I won't take anything glass with me anywhere because I can promise you I'll break it!)

And yeah, your teacher is right; you do have overly high expectations. As you know, too. We teachers like that so much better than those with low (or NO) expectations, but we also know what a challenge it can be for the student.

When I'm under a lot of stress I actually have to give up the gym; I tend to hurt myself for some reason -- maybe just going to hard on the machines because I'm so stressed. Just so you know!

Hang in there, Hilda!

dulciana said...

It sounds like you've turned a corner. As one of those people who also have overly high expectations, I find that I stress out and try to perform way beyond what anyone expects of me at first until I realize that I'm really doing okay. Then, as you say, things normalize. If you can work in a little time at the gym, and if you don't overdo it and hurt yourself, that's a great stress reliever. But, you know, if you don't have time to actually GO to the gym, a brisk walk is still great exercise and any kind of cardio is great for mental and physical health!