May 29   Expectations

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Posting again after a longer silence than I intended. I had meant to post every day as a way of checking in with the world and also to mark progress on this long project of mine. But life has a way of not ending up the way you thought it would, doesn’t it?

Take today, I feel really like I haven’t actually accomplished very much. I didn’t “sleep in” but left the house early for breakfast with C who is on long service leave for a bit. We did some vague errands and came home. I feel like I loitered around on the computer for hours and now it’s quarter to 6 and almost dinner time. My loitering involved uploading some more ebooks to Kobo – I have started rolling out the TPP backlist on Kobo (no longer really relying on Smashwords to do it cause it’s now so unwieldy to use). So a couple more books are up waiting for publishing and three I noted are now published (A Trifle Dead, Cracklescape and Asymmtrey). I answered some emails. I sent some feedback to writers on work submitted that I read yesterday. I started setting up some other online accounts and things for projects in development. I filled some book orders and answered some emails about other orders. And I received the proofs by courier for Caution: Contains Small Parts. I proofed those and have spoken to Amanda and the printer about some issues with those. And I backseat drove a bit of  the wardrobe cleanout that C was doing :)

And in truth, between you and me, I feel like I might have wasted the day.

Which comes to the title of this post – expectations. I think I’ve probably always lived my life trying to meet someone’s expectations, whether they be mine or other people’s. I remember getting my very first report card in Grade 1. My mother was standing with a cousin and they were comparing my report card and my cousin’s (I had about 5 cousins in my class, small community). He had got As and I hadn’t. And up until that very moment, I didn’t know I was supposed to, or that we would be graded and that the grades would *count*. And I remember thinking, “Why didn’t I know this?” And for years looking back on that moment of feeling completely behind the 8 ball, and inadequate, I’m still not sure how you are meant to know that life is going to be filled with marks and assessments and *judging* unless someone tells you. I still remember vividly being 6 years old and feeling completely inadequate and not good enough. (And I’m sure the grades were of things like handwriting and colouring in).

That moment kind of taught me that life was going to be a race and that people were going to scrutinise you and compare you to others. And that seems pretty harsh and stressful, sure. But I went to a high achieving school with over achievers. If I’d not had  a competitive streak in me (and maybe that Grade 1 report card lit that spark for me), I would have drowned in that school. Others did, and I felt sorry for them at the time. But for me, I think otherwise, I would have been lazy and sat at average. Instead, I was up there competing and pushing and striving to be the best. I never was though. Fourth was the slot for me and I had to slog away and work my arse off to maintain it. In high school, we  ended up in much much smaller classes and I might have topped Calculus on a good day (but there were only two of us in the class anyhow). But the pushing to be the best got me an engineering degree. And even though I was probably only average or just above class average in my degree, without that expectation to perform, and without constantly measuring up, I don’t think I would have passed. As I said, I have the tendency to be lazy.

I started TPP as an experiment, really. I wanted to see if I could implement some of the ideas that I had through ASIM. And I wanted to see if a small press *could* be financially viable. I’m still seeing if a small press can be viable – I don’t consider TPP to be established enough yet as a business to really be able to test it (longevity, credibility, reliability, consistency, backlist and relationships and networks take time to develop) and I’m still learning so much about publishing. But one of the people who lit a spark in me to be competitive was Paul Haines. We were at a room party at a Convergence and he said to me, “Yeah GJ, what you’ve done is good and all, but you’ll burn out soon enough, like they all do.” And I looked at him and I said, “No I won’t.” And he said, “We’ll see.” And any time I’ve felt down or tired or like I could burnout or throw the towel in, I’ve remembered that conversation and thought, “I’m going to prove to him that I can do this.” And I still will.

I’m lucky to have found people in this community of ours who believe in me and support me and help make this dream a reality but also know how to push my buttons. Some people push them the wrong way but a lot more of them know how to push them to help me achieve more and better than I would have done if left to my own devices. And I’m really grateful to those people – who pick me up when I am down and push me on when I need the push. And sometimes the people who push you aren’t doing it with love. But without them, too, I’d be less.

But what happens when you aren’t in a classroom anymore or in a workplace where promotion is the thing you’re working on? I work from home now, by myself, on a project I am mostly in charge of myself including the direction, the point, and ultimately how my performance will be graded. I don’t have anyone to mark myself against. And having done this before, albeit that time I did it on campus so I had a lot of people around me to mark my expected progress over time etc, I know that a PhD is essentially a solitary endeavour and can be very confronting. The whole point of it is to come out the other side which then, after doing it, justifies and makes meaning out of the journey.

In some ways, the answer is that there is no real difference to what I was doing with TPP on my own – setting my own expectations, devising milestones and marking progress along the way. I guess, though, the trouble with me (and isn’t there always) is that I can actually go either way – be lazy or set unrealistic expectations. And there’s that word again. Because somehow, I think that because I am now working on this full time, I must therefore achieve exponentially more than I was before, whilst also taking off my weekends. And now on top of that, I’ve suddenly, in my second trimester, developed the need to sleep 10 hours a day, every day. I have NEVER slept that much before. I’m a 6 to 7 hour a night person with 1 day in the week of maybe 8 or 9, and I’m good. This sleeping so much feels … wasteful, I guess? Even though, if I don’t do it, I feel physically ill, and I can intellectually understand that my body needs the rest, what with all that multitasking of growing inner ears (we did that last week) and fingerprints (or whatever it is this week).

I’m just really scared that I will squander this opportunity I have here. It feels like such a huge gift and I want to make sure that I exhaust every aspect of it and put it to good use. And then I “sleep in” and work more slowly and feel sluggish a lot. It … comes back to expectations. I know.





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  • By Jo on 29 May 2013 at 10:41 pm

    This makes me wish I believed in an afterlife so I could imagine Paul there, laughing at you and goading you on! ‘Cos you know he would be :-)

  • By Tansy Rayner Roberts on 30 May 2013 at 11:38 am

    As far as managing expectations goes… gestating a baby counts as at least a part-time job. Factoring in those naps & working around the needs of your current body is officially one of your criteria right now.

    Try adding ‘did I take care of myself today’ to the list of questions along with ‘did I make progress on TPP/PhD’.

    And remember that the ‘not burning out’ thing is not about displaying superpowers beyond all reason to achieve the impossible. It’s about making your work sustainable in the long term.

    The best thing you can do this year is work on developing the work-rest-balance-ergonomics habits that you want to carry forward into the next decade!

  • By AlisaK on 30 May 2013 at 12:03 pm

    He let me off the hook a couple of years ago but I still like to use it as incentive :)

  • By AlisaK on 30 May 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Woah! Next decade! Woah.

    All this is true, but I still have a Sept deadline that I am not really any closer to delivering on.

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