This post could also be entitled: Things Get Real. Or, How To Plan The Greatest 21st Birthday Ever When a Thesis is Breathing Down Your Neck Like a Big Paper-cutty Dragon.
For a start, my very first assignment was due. The assignment was to produce an annotated bibliography of the very best 15 sources on my thesis subject. This is problematic in itself because, doing a literature subject, I am picking a little bit of theories from all over the place. It's like making a fruit salad. I don't just want to pick the best fifteen apples off of the trees because who the heck would want to eat a whole bowl of apples when they could have strawberries and bananas too? Then I had to deal with the notion of what is "best". Are they the most interesting sources? The prettiest? The easiest to understand? Or are they the ones that are so highly regarded in academia that listing them is the Annotated Bibliography equivalent of saying you studied at Cambridge?
I ended up making a judgement call. I used the fifteen MOST RELEVANT sources that I had come across from different discourses. And on Monday, I handed it in. Over, done, caput.... until the next assignment, which is a Critical Introduction to my Thesis. OH JOY.
But the other reason that this week has been hard is because it's my Birth-Week. Ordinarily, I would just get a day on which to celebrate my 21st.... but being a busy Honours student with busy parents and busy friends, my birthday has actually been chunked and divided over the next couple of days, rendering this MY BIRTH WEEK. Sounds epic, right?
And it is, except that gone are the days where birthdays meant you could put on your party dress, and your mum would make snacks like fairy bread, and all your friends would come over and give you stuff. Because getting older means learning that the process leading up to that part means WORK. And some of that work you actually have to do for yourself. This week, I am indebted to my support team (friends and family) who are helping me enjoy this special process. A big shout out to my Mum, to History Boy, and to HIS Mum.
So, in summation, I'm stressed but I'm really looking forward to it. Here are a few things I've learnt this week about doing Honours when it's your birthday.
1. You can't please everyone. You just can't. If you try, you will feel like the ball in a pinball machine, constantly being flung back and forth, trying to make compromises.
2. You must be assertive. Remember that you won't get what you want if you don't speak up. This is MY birthday party, so I have had to learn that I don't have to incorporate anyone else's vision into it... because, see point one... I have tried.
3. You must be realistic. You are not Superwoman. You cannot cater a whole party, read six books, buy alcohol for sixty people, clean your house, write 2000 words and buy a pair of shoes all in one day. Give yourself enough time, and know when enough is enough.
4. If you have to pack your schedule, make sure you litter it with you time. 10 am? Transport food. 1 pm? Cleaning. But 4 to 7 pm? That's going to be pamper time, and if anyone takes me away from my curling iron, they'll have it coming.
5. Take a moment to step back and realise that everyone is showing you that they love you. And make sure you say thank you. I know it feels like you don't have time to stop, but saying thanks takes mere seconds, where as constructing cupcake mountains and putting together Easter Birthday baskets takes a bit more time than that. (For those, I want to thank Barbara and Carol respectively.)
If you've been organised up until this point, your Honours project will survive. The essay will still be half finished on Monday. Words will not disappear off the page. And if you give yourself space to breathe and get everything done, you may even find you have a stray hour lying about to work on it or write a book review.
If it's your birthday tomorrow too, Happy Birthday from me.