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If hindsight is 20/20, what’s foresight? Fall in retrospect and the prospect of Winter.

Last month Amanda and Jeremy retrospected about Fall 2014 and prospected about Winter 2015, which is what Dustin and I are going to start this new month off doing.

We've all been here, am I wrong?

We’ve all been here, am I wrong?


When I think back to the past semester, one of the things I notice is a bit of a paradox. On the one hand, my experience anecdotally confirms the research that task-switching decreases productivity and the truism that things will always take longer than you plan for. (A corollary of Murphy’s Law?). On the other hand, I was astonished at how fast it’s possible to make things happen. Or maybe even just how possible it is to make things happen. I’ve been astonished that if I just pick up the phone, I can invite a prominent artist or scholar to an event I’m organizing. Or that if I just apply, I can secure funds for that event. Or become part of somebody else’s organization. Or have my opinion or a piece of my writing find its way into some public venue. Does it sound naïve that I’m a little astonished by this? I think it has something to do with internalizing certain messages that it’s polite to wait and that if you’re worthy, then you’ll be recognized on that merit itself. Where did I get this idea that if someone deserves it, things will just happen to them? I remember reading once the argument that in modernity the individual had come to understand the course of their life on the template of the novel. I wonder if TV, movies, and social media have shifted things such that the culturally postmodern individual understands their life on the template of the status update, the blog post, or the episode – these staccato, capsular segments of events without context. Maybe this digital barrage reinforced the not-totally-accurate impression that impressive things were happening all the time to just about everyone with little effort or worry on their part. The existential equivalent of the perfectly tousled “I just rolled out of bed” look that actually required the careful application of products to texturize the hair and manual arrangement to hold it in place just so.


Not to minimize either of these two observations by putting them next to each other, but I also learned to not just rely on Word’s “autorecovery save” feature, but to switch on Word’s “always create backup copy” function. It could have been worse – I only lost a bibliography. Switch it on now. Don’t wait till the end of this post. Do it now.


Out of the above came my two New Year’s resolutions, to wit:

  1. Learn citation management software.
  2. Make things happen, neither expecting them to materialize spontaneously, nor worrying over them.

2.1.  Enjoy, or at least calmly accept dwelling in, the present moment when I am working, instead of worrying that it’s all about to go to pot or that I have no right to enjoy it because I should already be three items further down my to-do list.[1]

[1] Yes, I have worked out a clearer understanding of how I have been thinking than how I could think more balanced thoughts going forward. It’s only January 5. Get off my back.

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