I’m somewhat of a school addict. If I could take on as my permanent job that of STUDENT, I would be quite pleased. Being a student is actually similar to being a triathlete in training.
When training, you are working toward something great. You are working toward betterment, toward achievement, toward glory, toward greatness. Your training has a purpose outside of just being a way to keep thin, to keep in shape, to stave off mortality. Being a student is similar. Your reading, writing and insight have purpose when you are taking a class. They are attached to a goal–that of getting a good grade and that of being more articulate, better read and more knowledgeable than Bob who is sitting next to you in class.
A grade–A race. Same idea.
I get to work toward something–and that thing, though contrived, is also real. You really do compete in a race; you really do receive a grade. Once that carrot (the race/the grade) is taken from me, however, my effort seems without purpose–just a silly self-indulgence. Of course, you and I both know that even attached to a race or a grade, training and reading/writing is just as much a form of self indulgence. I’m not out to better the world; I’m out to “better” (read indulge) me. I could get all nihilist on you and explain how since the world is inherently devoid of meaning except that which I ascribe to it, I need these contrivances to get me up in the morning. But that’s probably a bit much for 11:00 a.m. on a Friday morning.
Anyway. I’m hankering for a goal. Usually this results in me starting a bunch of big projects that I can’t execute properly because my life is just too full of kids, dogs, training, coaching etc and so on. Nevertheless, I can’t seem to help myself. A few months ago I spent time building a list of classic literature I want to read in the next (xxx, before I’m dead) years. I’ve set goals like this before (that is, to read a set amount of a type of literature in a prescribed period of time), but, as explained earlier, when the goal isn’t attached to something outside of me–like a race or a grade–I have trouble sticking with it. But this time… this time I found something–a lovely contrivance to keep me working! I am joining a blogger group called The Classics Club. On it you post a list of the 50+ plus classics you plan to read in the next five years. As you read through the list, you blog about each book. Here is my list.
I did something similar to this in my late 20s. I didn’t join a group, but I did make a list of classics I wanted to read. These classics had to have had movie versions made of them, however. I’d finish a classic and then reward myself by viewing the movie. I remember I made Andy watch all the movies with me. At the time I kept a journal of my thoughts–whether the movie did justice to the book, or not. I’ll be damned if I can find the journal now, of course. Another awesome project alive only in my brain… and not on paper.
Of course, even when you have written or photographic evidence of a successful project, it still really only exists in your brain as a fragmented and imperfect memory.