A personal blog post commenting on the negative effects of psychological flow, coupled with the end of a rough semester in college.
So it’s been a while. A long while since I’ve spoken, written, said much for words, honestly – but I hope you’ve been doing well, friend.
I finished my first semester of my senior year at college. I’m not quite sure how to react yet, since I’ve been so wired by the work that I’ve been doing, I’ve hardly had a chance to write. So in this moment, my words are kind of scattered inside of my head. I’ve been so used to seeing the flashing numbers of due dates and the letters of theories that I haven’t really had a moment to stop and wonder where all my creative inspiration has gone.But it’s refreshing to speak with my written words – the only sound to produce them the ‘clicking’ on my keyboard.
I haven’t been great with words, lately (for the past few months) – The “speaking” kind I mean. Who takes time to speak when they have so many words they are required to write?
“No, no, I can’t talk, nor can I go out tonight – I’ve got three papers to finish, and two other assignments to work on. Oh yeah, it’s fine, just have a drink for me.” – I’ve had this dialogue a lot. And it’s weird too, when you get so wired into the work that you have to do (especially if you’re a perfectionist and driven solely by high achievement, like me), that you actually begin to enjoy the moments of working – With this work, I knew I was making myself worth something (although, that’s a really twisted way of looking at the benefits of work). Overall, this semester for me was the hardest semester I’ve ever had in college. With my two jobs, coupled on top of my 16-credit hours with the most difficult senior classes thrown in the mix, I found myself scrambling every moment of every day just to get everything done. Not only that, but I knew I could still be doing more. I felt guilty for not doing my art or writing enough. I felt guilty for not being better at my job, or taking time to learn more things. I just felt guilty about everything. And I mean everything.
For the past 2 and a half months-ish, I hadn’t been able to stop…at all.
The last thing I had written for myself was in October. I stopped writing, stopped doing art, stopped playing video games. My small moments of solace included me laying on the couch, spacing out while watching Netflix because my brain was mostly fried from the day.
I felt like a working machine. And yes, I know I’ve used that analogy a lot, but it’s been even more relevant for this semester for me. I hardly ever allowed myself time to ‘relax’, and when I did, I felt guilty for not getting my work done. I finished almost every assignment this semester a week or two in advance, and if I didn’t get over a 95%, I was disappointed. For some odd reason, I’ve heightened the stakes on myself, as if I have something to prove (which for me, there’s always something to prove, I suppose). And I know I do all of this to myself, because I could very well skip an assignment or two, or stop killing myself – but that just won’t do.
And now I still feel lost for words — I suppose that’s why I haven’t written in so long, alongside the exhaustion, of course.
In reality, I’ve been stuck in flow.
Flow, from the words of a psychology minor, pertains to being totally immersed in the work you’re doing to the point where you lose sense of time and place.
Generally, flow is seen as a good thing. It gives you hyperfocus, lets you dive more deeply into details, and helps you get work done.
Let’s just say I’ve been stuck in flow for months.
But why is this bad? – you ask.
Because flow detaches you from reality – usually being detached from reality is something I enjoy, but when one is immersed in flow for so long (over a span of months), what happens when one stops working?
Well. Let’s just say everything feels… not real. Now, I’m no psychology professional, nor do I know if there’s direct research on the negative aspects of flow, but when you think about it, it makes sense. I experience (positive) flow most often when I work on art. But once I finish doing the art, I usually feel a little dazed for a while and then snap back into myself.
But now? I’m not snapping back.
My mind, after being stuck in months of intense work and routine, seems to be roaming around in a corner somewhere, and has no idea how to get ‘home’, back inside my body.
This sensation occurs whenever I’m not working on something of importance. If I’m not working on a paper, it feels as if someone slapped me over the head and stars are dancing before my eyes, coupled with drool falling out of the side of my mouth.
People ask me simple questions, and I find myself fumbling over my words. I accidently put on my clothes backwards, or I turn the wrong way to go to school, because I think I’m going to work instead.
It’s like, my body and mind, unable to comprehend the need to control itself freely rather than being wrapped up in intense focus, has depreciated to a mindless child that has no idea where they are, who the are, or what the hell is going on around them.
I feel like the definition of dazed and confused and even if I can play it off well, and be all nods and smiles in my moments of free-time, I’m simply not real.
I’ve become my work, I’ve become my education – that is where my mind has held it’s intensity, rather than the things I love and that define me (my art, my writing).
And I get it – this is life – people work 40 hour weeks, have two and a half kids, a dog, and go to knitting club, but god damn it, how do they not want to rip their own eyes out because of how lost they feel? I know this is how so many people live, and I should just get over myself, but I can’t stop thinking about this feeling. What’s the point of it all of I don’t even feel like I’m ‘here’?
I guess it all lead me back to this idea of working. How I must work to survive, to live, to thrive…but it seems I only feel good enough to do work so intensely when someone has a whip to my back (aka, I’m my own worst boss, and feel no motivation or inspiration unless I’m receiving a fucking grade to do something).
So I’m on Winter break now – I have a senior capstone to work on (I have to create art pieces), and I’ve never felt so confused at the fact that there’s nothing urgent and pressing for me to work on in this moment, considering my project is due in April.
I feel, that without the work, I’m only that mindless child that has no idea where they are.
How can a lost child create art?
How can a lost child write, socialize, go to work, and enjoy themselves?
How can a lost child do much of anything?
…Hey, at least I’m probably gonna get another 4.0 GPA this semester – that’s what matters, right?
Alrighty, this ‘child’ is the same old drama queen that the normal version of me is. We’ve got something going there.
Sorry – no usual uplifting comment at the end of the post, had to have myself a mini rant since I haven’t written in so long I guess. But hey, I bet you’re doing beautifully, and I like your face, and I believe in you, so keep on keeping on, friend.
Thanks again for reading.
Feel crazy like me? Leave a comment below!
With endless encouragement,