Yesterday was a good day because:
1. I went jogging at 11am after oversleeping for an hour. It was a terrible run, but it was also a great run at the same time. My menstrual cramps hit midway into my run when I was running back along my route towards the house. It was insane how much it hurt; it was unquantifiable, how much I wanted to stop running and just give up. I had stitches too on top of the cramps, but of course, those did not hurt even half as much as menstrual cramps. I felt like I couldn't even stand straight, let alone continuously put one foot in front of the other and push myself off the ground and keep running.
Guess what? I did it. I fucking did it. I told myself to run to the bridge connecting Chesterton Road to Jesus Green, and when I got there, I decided it was stupid to stop now and ran across the bridge and to my doorstep. I selected a 20-minute workout instead of the usual 30 because I was feeling very full and I wanted to keep it short so that I could get to work as soon as possible; in the end, it was 24 minutes, and my pace didn't decrease at all.
Sometimes, I'm not sure where I get off calling myself mentally weak. Sure, I suck at playing competitive tennis, but there is no compelling reason why that should be definitive of everything else. Sure, I question my abilities a lot; it says something that every time I finish a paper, I think it's the worst thing that I've ever written. Still: it says something, too, that I make myself do the things that I want to do, even when I feel like giving up. I made myself run the whole way because I refused to let a biological inconvenience and annoyance get in the way of my fitness regime, and refused to use it as an excuse to fail to achieve something that I wanted to do.
2. Similarly, I was in the library at 3pm, trying to write something by 5pm the next day. I couldn't really focus; I didn't really feel like doing it. But I had to write something and I was running out of time, and so I made myself do it. I was tired and restless and I wanted to leave the cold library and come back to my comfortable warm room, but I made myself do it - just keep typing, keep thinking, keep trying to tie the ideas together into something more or less coherent. In the end, I kind of unearthed something somewhat significant; and I stayed till 11.30pm exploring it, trying to make sense of it, until I couldn't anymore.
3. Related to the above: I spoke to G on Skype at 3pm. He replied to my Whatsapp messages - three pictures of the River Cam, back view of the house, and the path of the Fellow's Garden leading to the house, and that I hoped his talk went well - and we exchanged selfies, and I thought, I wouldn't mind talking to him even though I was a bit stressed about writing. We talked for half an hour. He remembered this Wednesday 5pm deadline and I told him that I didn't feel like doing it, that I had no idea what to write; and what he said reminded me of why he's still so important to me. He has this ability to talk sense into me, to put things into perspective, to calm me down and inspire me all at once. He told me about how it was 24 hours before his talk and he didn't have a talk, and he just pushed through it because he had to do it. In the end, he came up with something amazing. For me, he said, You know you can do this. Despite all the shit you are feeling, ultimately, you know you can do this. Besides, you wrote a great article [referring to the Singapore human rights chapter]. And the way he describes things is always with an additional layer of depth. The PhD is an honour, he said. Unfortunately, I can't remember the rest of what he said. Sometimes I wish I could record our conversations. I find his insights so inspiring. It is crazy.
When he said that he was on the lookout for the next project, I asked if he ever took a break. Why would I do that? he said. This is almost who I am.
That's the thing, I think. My PhD is kind of who I am, but it's not almost who I am. I don't have the same passion for it like he does for his work. I like it, but it's also a choice that was made by the process of elimination. There is something else that I would rather do, and I think this will always keep me at arm's length from my PhD. But I don't think that's problematic per se; I think it's fine not to be almost completely committed, as long as I recognise it and don't expect myself to be like G. I can't be like that. I have a tendency to get bored of things after I'm quite familiar with it. The only thing that I have not get bored of, which has been a constant interest/passion throughout my life, is literature. I'm not doing a PhD in English, so that's just too bad for me. As such, I will carve out my own path, and I won't peg myself to him. I won't think of myself as less serious or more frivolous just because I'm not obsessed with my PhD. I have to be who I am amidst the madness and confusion; otherwise, I really will go crazy.
I told him, too, that I have this problem of hating everything that I write and thinking that every new paper that I write is the worst thing I've ever written. G attempted to pay lip-service to the idea that it was good to be self-critical, but his true colours were exposed when he said that he tried to be self-critical about his work. I started laughing when I heard that; it came from the same guy who described his talk as 'I was amazing :D'. I wish I could have that kind of confidence and conviction in myself, but then again, G doesn't suffer from the imposter syndrome at all. I told him about it that afternoon when we were in Holland Village, sitting on a swing in a cafe, and I told him how I would constantly question my own abilities. He said that almost never happened to him. While G and I are alike in many ways, we are clearly complete opposites when it comes to this particular issue. I wonder what it's like to have so much conviction in one's abilities.
Also, I totally knew what he meant when he said that the work never gets easier, and that it shouldn't get easier; if it does, it means that it's no longer challenging. Maybe that's why I'm so self-critical. It's probably the bad logical extreme of the general principle, but if I start thinking that something that I've done is really good, then it means that I've stopped challenging myself. Related to this is how I tend to perceive my own work as easy or not difficult; it means that I constantly expect more of myself. Does this make sense? I am too tired to think this through properly, so I will just leave it at that.
Anyway. On a lighter note, I told him that I booked my flight and that I will be in Europe on 1 January 2016. Upon hearing that, he let out this super funny sound, a squeal, that almost did not sound human. It was so funny and adorable; I am laughing to myself right now as I recall it. I didn't bother asking him the precise date we're gonna meet because I know that he's not had the time to think about it. Whatever it is, hopefully something concrete gets fixed soon, preferably before I go home. The time difference between the UK and the US is less brutal than that between the US and Singapore.
Talking to him really helped. I could focus on reading for a bit before I was physically incapable of focusing, and I took a nap for 20 minutes. When I woke up, I decided that I was hungry, so I went to eat. Still, the nap was not a waste of time. I wasn't fully asleep and I was half-thinking about how to write what I want to write, and I came up with a pretty good plan which I executed relatively well. I just have to finish it tomorrow morning before 3pm. There's going to be a quiz during the Wittgenstein lecture and I wanted to study for it because I'm a nerd and I don't want to get a shit score, but alas, I don't have time.
4. Roger Federer beat Novak Djokovic in their round robin match. YES! I really thought that Roger would lose. I was so distracted by the livescores that I took longer than necessary to write whatever I was writing, and I even fistpumped when Roger took the first set, and then the match. I kind of wish I'd been there...oh well.
5. Dominic remembered my other shameless request for a poster from the Musee d'Orsay. He's going there in the morning. I am SO jealous! I complained about how painful my PhD was, and he said, 'You will see that you will start falling in love with your PhD at some point.' He wasn't entirely wrong about that, was he? In fact, the last hour of my time in the library proved that he was quite right.
6. It was also a good day because my period finally arrived. The soreness of my boobs were really, really killing me. It was a crazy 39-day cycle. I don't know why the regularity is all out of whack again. It became quite stable at one point but now it's all messed up again.
I REALLY need to sleep. I'm so hungry right now. I can't wait to wake up and have some bread with my amazing Cadbury milk chocolate spread.