Archives for posts with tag: action

As frustrated as I can get with the “academy” (and I can get very frustrated), I have to acknowledge that all of my academic training has proven useful in encouraging one particular obsession habit: researching. Regarding researching, I can openly admit that I am, in fact, a bit of a compulsive. For example, rarely does a vegetable find its way from the produce section to my refrigerator without being first thoroughly considered and cross-referenced. An unsuspecting acquaintance casually mentions the salt content of a pot pie? To the books! Obscure symbols on bumper stickers get the full treatment, sans MLA formatted works cited page (unless deemed absolutely necessary). And after an exhaustive and comprehensive investigation, I went for a run.

This blog is, indeed, a collection of one year of mental meanderings that occasionally resulted in full-on-yet-inconsistent pursuits. Yoga, sailing, the Italian language, plant-based foods, all attempted after extensive scrutiny and enough information-gathering to fill multiple 3-inch binders. (One binder per subject, of course, with appropriate tabs and page protectors). Researching has become, quite definitely and unstoppably, second nature.

I tend to credit the institution of higher education for this addiction behavior, but really my penchant for informed inquiry started at a much younger age. As one of a dwindling generation of folks who grew up with significant shelf space devoted to the now only-available-electronically Encyclopedia Britannica, I often posed a random query about, say, yaks, only to be promptly directed by my mother to “look it up,” which I did. (The Tibetan work “yak” refers only to the male of the species as the female is called a “dri” or “nak,” btw).

The post-Britannica era being ripe with opportunities to quickly gather information on the positively obscure from almost any location, “looking it up” became an unavoidable and wildly convenient pattern, eventually and intensely aided by my accrual of a laptop and smartphone. While I remain a bit of a holdout with most technology, and particularly with social networking, I cannot deny the functionality of the online search. For individuals with my condition concern, this wi-fi wonderland eliminates excuses for knowing nothing when, in fact, the problem should be “knowing” too much after sifting through the swaths of information possible to know.

I jest about the degree to which information-finding has “become me,” but I do maintain that the present historical era increases the responsibility on each individual to find things out. While the amount of available information is not even remotely equal to the amount of viable, useful information, a little source analysis and comparison can most often lead to usable pieces of knowledge. (I have found the truth in this idea most timely as I am in the position of meeting with various doctors quite often.)

Alas, and as I remind my students, access does not guarantee use. Knowledge does not guarantee action.

After years of academia, I have become a master at compiling resources while, like all good academics, doing little with the information beyond simply knowing it. Such seems to be the sad case for many of the pursuits in this blog. As much as I now “know” about my multiple endeavors, I have “done” very little. I have found repose in the comforting embrace of research, developing a smugness from the knowledge I have accumulated while nonchalantly ignoring the demands of action. There is, I believe, a balance that I am sorely lacking.

So, in an effort to pop the bubble of intellectual ego, I recommit to “doing,” not just “learning.”

(In truth, this renewed motivation could be founded on a desire to do anything but grade the mountain of student papers on my desk, but I am willing to take that risk.)



As you all know, I am devoting this blog to my various mad pursuits in hopes that writing about them will actually encourage me to attain them. So far, so good.

Since started this web-based accountability journal, I’ve written about different approaches to time that make these pursuits seem more achievable, and the inspiration for the title of this blog that stems from the warm fuzzies of contentment guaranteed whence petting a dog.

What I haven’t offered a narrative on yet, though, is one of my primary inspirations for attempting to “juggle” several objectives at once. That inspiration is my husband, who will graduate on Monday with a PhD, then start medical school in August.

Yes, you read that last sentence right, but go ahead and reread it.

My husband and I have been on the same academic track ever since undergrad. We each earned a B.A. in English, then an M.A., and then moved on to PhD studies. While I plan to finish this current grad school trek in the summer, he is getting “hooded” in a few days. His dissertation was officially uploaded to the university databases yesterday. (It’s really good, really.)

However, about halfway into our first semester as PhD students and while visiting my family, he came home from having lunch with a friend who was in medical school at the time and declared, quite simply and nonchalantly, that he was going to Pharmacy School. “Ok,” I said.

That next semester he took two graduate seminars in English, taught two composition classes, and took Calculus and Anatomy and Physiology. Over the next few terms, he finished coursework for his English PhD, took his comprehensive exams (earning a High Pass on all three), taught course overloads, worked at the university library, and successfully completed all of the prerequisites, including Genetics, Organic Chemistry, Biochem, Statistics, and other courses that I can’t remember off the top of my head.

The Pharmacy School plan soon turned into Medical School, and he added studying for the MCAT to his repertoire of tasks.

Not feeling unaccomplished enough yet in comparison?

The list of his academic exploits above occurred concurrently.

As an illustration, he took the MCAT on a Saturday during finals week one Spring semester in-between grading 50+ student papers, giving and grading finals, and taking two final exams himself, all within about 5 days of each other. He scored competitively on the MCAT, went through an incredibly extensive and paperwork-laden application process, and was accepted to medical school in our home state to start this fall.

Oh, and did I mention he wrote a dissertation?

Now, I know you are thinking, even hoping, that this journey caused him to be a sad recluse. Forfeiting the company of society, straining our marriage, ignoring our dogs, letting himself “go” in terms of health, and all of those consequences of over achievement that we perceive in people who we offer sympathetic smiles to whilst we talk about how we “may not be accomplishing as much, but at least we are living.  A little more cabernet please, Friend.”

Prepare yourself.

In addition to the accomplishments noted above, he also captained flag football and soccer teams (men’s and co-ed) for several years, started working out with his friend at 7:30am three mornings a week, went on annual family vacations, took me to France last summer to hang out with my sister, played basketball, went to Trivia at a local Pub, hung out with friends regularly, researched the stock market (day trading a bit during Statistics class, tsk tsk), and talked Melville with our pastor and his wife during dinner at their house every now and then. And he volunteered at a free medical clinic several hours a week, and we are pretty consistent in our church attendance.

Yes, I will grant you that he is incredibly intelligent and that gift from Heaven of above-above-average smarts helped the process along. But I realized something last year after wallowing in self-pity because my dissertation refused to write itself.

He has no more hours than I do.

That’s right. What he doesn’t have is more time, and I mean literal time. Quite the opposite, in fact, as he allotted more of his hours to more commitments in a given week than I probably do in a month. What he did do, though, was “spend” his hours more wisely. Instead of watching TV, he would study. Instead of talking on the phone or lollygagging about, he would walk the dogs, play football, play guitar, or read.

Naturally, of course, I am wildly jealous that he is “done” with this ole’ PhD. I would love to get my hood on. My hazel eyes shine more green than blue as of late. But, more than anything, I’m proud. He proves what none of us really want to admit, particularly myself. That, if we just put the work into the actions required to succeed in various pursuits, we are much more likely to attain them.

I often worry that I get too strong a sense of accomplishment simply from talking or writing about the things I am trying to “do” instead of actually doing them. What he shows me every day is that pursuits require action. They require work. They require that we make our hours useful and productive.

In the words of the immortal Toby Keith, what we need is a little less talk, and a lot more action.