The problem is, I haven't finished revising it. A few reasons: I went to Nice; I came back and didn't feel like working on my PhD; two days after I came back, I had to move to my current room which took two days; I spent even more time revising my 377A paper in light of comments from John and Raffael; and my work ethics suck, which means that I took forever to read materials for Chapter 3 and, as always, vastly over-estimated how much I can actually accomplish in a 4-hour work day. Is it actually ridiculous that I work from about 1.30, 2pm to about 6pm? These days, I am writing in the evenings too (like tonight), but that's really only because of the deadline. If it weren't looming in the near horizon, I would probably have gone to play tennis this evening and done no work.
And of course, I am putting pressure on myself to submit something that isn't shit. The plan was to substantially revise two main arguments. I have done the first one and I am now re-writing and re-thinking another argument, simply because it is how the overall argument is set out in the paper and I am OCD or something and cannot skip a step in the logical argumentative sequence. This means that I have not begun to revise the second main argument that I wanted to revise, and it is quite a crucial and controversial one. Hopefully I can do this on Friday, finish on Sunday, and spend Monday and Tuesday looking it over. I'm sure the organisers wouldn't disqualify me for being a couple of days late...
There's a problem, however. I don't actually know what the bloody argument is going to be. I am hoping that it will magically come to me when I am writing. It's not that I haven't thought about it; in fact, it is all that I am thinking about when I think about this chapter. It's just that it is a really hard question, and I am trying to find an argument to fit my intuition. This is essentially the problem: why is my identity as a Singaporean or ethnic Chinese more important and significant than my identity as a writer or a tennis player or a PhD student? This is intuitively true to me, but I don't know how to ground it in a justifiable argument.
On the other hand, who gives a shit, right? Well, I do, hence this PhD. And this chapter/paper is taking over my life. I even gave up snuggly time with Matt last night because of it, telling him no, he couldn't spend the night at mine because I needed to sleep in order to have enough brain power to write this chapter.
The bright side to all of this is, I am entertaining myself and making the writing process more enjoyable than it would otherwise be by forcing my academic writing into an elegance of style that it had hitherto not exhibited. It is inconsistent, to be sure; a discernible reader would be able to tell which parts have been revised because, at present, the chapter reads like it's been written by two different people. But it's been fun so far and I frequently use Michael Sandel as inspiration; his style is so beautiful that sometimes I have to remind myself I need to engage with his ideas and arguments, not his style. But I have to do what works for me, right? If writing well, and actually liking the style of what I have written, motivates me to write this PhD, then I'll take it.
I have been in a really good mood all day long. I attribute this to two things: my morning exercise and last evening with Matt.
The morning exercise was rather run-of-the-mill; I didn't even do that much beyond 12 minutes on the treadmill and 15 minutes on the cross-trainer. But it felt good anyway. I signed up for the Cambridge Town and Gown 10K run taking place on 22 October, and because I am competitive, have standards and a lot of pride, I don't want to finish anywhere worse than middle-of-the-pack and with a timing worse than an hour and a few minutes. I found this training schedule for beginners which includes 30 minutes' worth of cross-training. This could mean swimming or cycling or whatever, but it could also be on the cross-trainer.
It's not that I am physically incapable of spending 30 minutes on the elliptical (?) machine. Actually, scratch that: I am physically incapable of it...because it is utterly boring. I can't even start doing 15 minutes without needing to seriously force myself to do it. That's how boring it is. I would love to swim for 30 minutes but the pool is too far away and I still haven't got around to attempting to cycle again, so all I've got is the bloody cross-trainer machine.
Anyway, I am excited about the run. My best pace so far was 5.59 minutes per kilometre which I accomplished a few months ago, though I remember this run being very taxing. A couple of days ago, though, I ran at a pace of 6.01 minutes per kilometre. I would like to get it down to just a little below 6, but I know that I am lazy and I am not a runner anyway, so realistically, finishing my first 10k ever with a time of just over an hour (not more than 5 minutes over, however) would be quite a good accomplishment.
I found that I hit a rather steady stride towards the end of my run on Monday (or whenever it was). That was probably close to the 30-minute mark. So this means that I could probably run at a comfortable pace halfway into the entire 10k run and speed up like crazy towards the end. In short, I think I'm going to be fine...unless I get a stitch. I would be so mad if I got a stitch. That would be so unfair.
As for last evening with Matt: we didn't even do anything out of the ordinary and spent maybe 1.5 hours together, but he left me on a high note which carried over to today. We met at the Punt Yard at 7.30pm. He'd said 'yeah maybe' when I asked if he wanted to get food, and I was super hungry at about 6.30, so I had some muesli, and then I was too full to eat. He had a beer and some food; I had a small merlot served in a milk bottle and which I poured into a cup. Very hipster.
He listened to my moaning about my PhD - the usual things that I have written about previously. I was particularly annoyed by the group behind me, one of whom had the loudest, most obnoxious laughter. He showed me a photo of the bottled beer that he brewed with his friends (or mates, as he frequently says). Then, when we were discussing when we could see each other next, I sprung a brilliant idea on him: I should go over to his place on a day when he doesn't have to work the next day (so that I don't have to wake up early and follow him out of the house) and when I won't be stressed the next morning. Since he's off next Saturday, I should go over next Friday.
He really doesn't want me to go over. I'd been badgering him to let me go over for weeks now, and the one time he sort of agreed to do it 'next week', we spent that week not speaking. So when he finally agreed, I was very very pleased. He looked so reluctant and unwilling though, not so much because he'd have to clean his room, but because he doesn't like where he's living at the moment. But I don't care. I want to see where his lives. Also, he's the only one between us to have a double bed, so it makes more sense for us to indulge in snuggly time at his rather than mine.
He accused me of 'lawyering' him when I was doing nothing more than making him a proposition in which we both win: he gets a warm body next to him in bed, and I get to see his place. He retorted, 'No - because you'd get to see my place!' But he eventually relented; of course, right? How can anyone say no to me?
When we left, I told him excitedly that I was reading a book that was totally relevant to my PhD. Taking the piss, he said, 'Is it 50 Shades of Grey?' I was so offended that I couldn't even look at him; and when we were outside, he continued, 'Oh I know, it's Dan Brown!' (This was a throwback to a conversation we had about books during which I revealed my true self as a literature snob. He said that Dan Brown's books are well-written. 'You're joking,' I said. He denied it. 'You're joking,' I repeated. 'You cannot be serious.' Alas, he wasn't joking; but his idea of well-written is 'easy to read', and I suppose Dan Brown is easy to read the way that most popular fiction is easy to read because badly - okay, blandly, pedestrian-ly - written, so fair enough.)
When he stopped taking the piss and started taking me seriously, I told him that I am reading Philip Roth's The Human Stain and how the central character is a light-skinned African-American brought up in a black household and then goes on to lie about his race and lives as a white man. This is so relevant to my PhD, I said, because it is precisely about how our identity is constituted by these things and how we can't escape them. Then I said that I randomly picked up this book when I was browsing a second-hand bookstore along Charing Cross Road in London, with no knowledge whatsoever of its themes; in fact, it was curious that I bought a book by Philip Roth considering I tried reading his The Counterlife and found it so boring that I didn't even finish it. And after I'd finished The Waves, I decided, at random, to read The Human Stain - what a lucky decision, reading this at the same time as I revise the chapter that deals with the themes that the novel explores.
Matt said, 'Is it a coincidence or is it fate?' Then he said that he was going home to continue reading his comic series (Paper Girls? Something like that). 'It's not related to my work,' he added.
It was cute that he was taking the piss last night. We walked to his bike, parked outside Fitzbillies, and I asked, 'Are you going to walk me home?'
'Of course, you plonker!'
'What's "plonker"? Oh wait, I heard it on The Office!'
'It's a term of endearment. It's like "you idiot!" but in an endearing way.'
'Really? It didn't come across as endearing on The Office.'
'Well, I use it as a term of endearment.'
'So how do other people use it then? Like if I called someone a plonker would they think it's endearing?'
He pulled this face, as if too knackered for this conversation and my ten million questions. Was this better or worse for him than my constantly asking why, I wonder? I'd never even realised that I ask 'why' a lot until he pointed it out to me and said it was annoying. So these days, I try to stop myself when I am aware that I am about to ask 'why'; but because I really want to know the reason for things, I usually end up asking 'why' in a roundabout manner. I'm pretty sure that he's not unaware of what I'm doing. Ha!
So we got to my front door. He removed his hand from his pocket, pulled me to him, kissed me long and deep. We were standing in the middle of the pavement, in the way of some people trying to go about their business without a couple randomly standing in their way, kissing. We moved ourselves to the side and an old man walked past. I didn't even notice until Matt said, 'That old man checked you out. You just pulled!'
Before he cycled off, he said, 'Come for a coffee tomorrow.'
I knew that I was going to say it, and I said it anyway because it was pertinent: 'Why?'
'I want to give you a coffee,' he said, before kissing me again.
And so, for the first time in WEEKS, I spent no money today! I think it's sweet that he gives me coffee and sometimes even food. It is important that I appreciate it every time he does it and not come to expect it and take it for granted. I appreciated it today, for sure. There was a family in front of me - some old people - and they were indecisive, and I hate getting stuck behind indecisive customers because I know exactly what I want, everyone at Fitzbillies knows exactly what I want (unless I'm there a second time in which case it's usually an Americano, not a flat white), so why do I have to wait for people to make up their minds? Thankfully, he saw me and waved me over to the coffee machine. I could tell that he was busy and a little stressed out which he confirmed later when he texted me to say that he was super busy. But it was fine. It was more than fine. His coffee powered me through the afternoon, as it has done for the past year.
I think, no matter what happens - except, I suppose, if he does something terrible to hurt me - I will always have a soft spot for him. I don't know why. It is beyond logic and reason. But why think so much? Just enjoy it; just be.