I’ve updated the theme on this website for the first time in about nine years. Also purchased the domain (last year)! How fun!
Other than that, I guess as far as “achievements,” I’m not sure what I have to report. Completion in the sense that I was defining it on the outset of the project is hard for me to point to at the moment, though I’m sure it’s worthwhile to try. There’s a lot “in progress” and a lot that just doesn’t… end? Even on the recreation side of things. How do you complete Animal Crossing? Pokémon GO? Reading a book??? Anyway, a lot of my life feels like that right now—just… ongoing. Nothing final.
Of course, feelings aren’t everything. I’ve broken the record for the longest I’ve lived at the same address as an adult. I’ve acquired a record player and was finally able to listen to the Beatles record I bought in 201X. I convinced my roommates and partner to do an Animal Crossing-themed group costume for Halloween 2020. I convinced my partner to do a Pokémon Sword/Shield-themed costume for Halloween 2021 (he didn’t fight me much). I learned to make chili and the function of cumin in chili (still trying to understand the function of bay leaves, though I throw them in anyway). I spent more meaningful time in Vermont than just stopping the car and standing on the ground of it before driving on to somewhere else. I tried (and hated) Instacart. I got contacts. I got color contacts (for the 2021 Halloween costume). (Those last two might be less “accomplishments” and more “the marriage of vanity and worsening eyesight.” Am I getting older? Staring at screens all day? Yes?)
Either way, we’re going into the tenth year that this site has existed, and I would like to pay it a little more attention, or at least more consistent attention, hence the makeover and (forthcoming, hopefully) repairs/updates to various pages. I know you’ve all been watching this space with bated breath, so take heart. But maybe breathe. I am who I am.
or, “Another Long Post I Don’t Expect Many to Read.”
Obviously I post here infrequently at best to begin with, but in case anyone feels like they’ve noticed a decline in my posting anywhere else (I feel like there has been a decline, but who even knows anymore besides The Algorithm), I thought I’d write something here as, I suppose, some version of an update. So…
lost my grandfather, the first grandparent and immediate family member of mine to die
finished another book cycle at work
somewhat-inadvertently worked my way off of the antidepressant that I started taking last year
spent some valuable time with my mother and siblings
had a cousin come visit me at home for a week after a two-year [physical] separation
flew on a plane (sooner than I would’ve cared for in a pandemic, but I didn’t freak out, so I’ll take it)
While it might not apply to all of those items, I feel like these last few months are taking on a theme of “transition,” and I confess that I welcome the change, undefined as much of any change for me might be.
I mean for this post to be about before May 2021, though. As the “subtitle” suggests, this is longer than most people probably will want to read, but it is my website and I am my own editor on it, and I have told plenty of you that I happen to really like the nineteenth-century writing style of “Let’s see how many commas, adjectives, and clauses we can fit in one sentence,” so I invite you to deal with it.
It’s been what I would call a pretty “internal” year and change for me, which sounds like a quarantine joke but isn’t—I’ve actually been going to the office two days a week for most of the pandemic, and I picked up Pokemon GO again, so the amount of time I’ve spent exclusively in my house isn’t the same as a lot of people I know. I mean “internal” emotionally and mentally.
I’ve wanted to explain why I’ve been so quiet, why I’ve been so flaky, why I haven’t checked in on people I normally would have, why I haven’t finished my conversation with you, why my phone says I have 79 “unread” text messages and probably a dozen more on Facebook Messenger as I type this, why I’m “mad,” why I’m doing anything that I’m doing that might seem amiss or concerning. I haven’t been able to get the words right and doubt I will this time either, but hopefully it’ll be better than nothing.
This post can’t cover everything, but it can cover a little of what has consistently dominated my thoughts and energy and affected my participation in many areas of my life and that I have wanted people to understand a little better.
About two weeks before lockdown in Massachusetts began, I requested a referral to behavioral health to explore the possibility of my having ADHD. When I had my initial appointment in April (on the phone, of course), I burst into tears pretty much immediately and was ultimately prescribed aforementioned antidepressant. It helped some. In July, I was finally tested and diagnosed with ADHD—inattentive type—and was apparently supposed to receive a list of recommendations but didn’t until almost a year later. In the meantime, though, we continued tinkering with med combos and, among other adjustments, I began the extremely frustrating process of recontextualizing my entire life heretofore with this information about myself.
I was a lot angrier than I expected. Self-condemning diary entries from middle school, consolatory notes from friends in high school, discouraging experiences in my professional and academic performance, countless memories of the last three decades, continuously revolving as I revisited just how much shame and disappointment in myself I’ve felt for being incompetent, inconsistent, without discipline, and apparently unwilling or uncaring enough to correct any of it. The symptoms have been there if anyone had known what to look for (for example, I made an entire website about my inability to focus long enough on anything to finish it), but no one did. I know why most people didn’t and in general can’t blame them, but that doesn’t give eight-year-old me, twelve-year-old me, twenty-year-old me, twenty-eight-year-old me any of the grace, support, and understanding I needed when I needed it, and twenty-nine-/thirty-year-old me has had to grieve those things for all of “us.”
There’s plenty of other unique-to-me baggage attached to receiving this particular diagnosis, but even accounting for that, I’ve tried to keep this piece of myself relatively close to the chest for reasons I haven’t totally teased out yet. Working through internalized ableism is one of them, and another is that this process has taken up significant portions of my time and energy without the extra element of other people, and it makes me, who was voted “Worst Case of Narcolepsy” for my senior superlative, even more tired than usual. I’ve tried to prioritize rest in this regard.
In my sophomore year of college, I wrote an essay about how my position on most issues was, at that point, “firmly on the fence.” In my memory, it was essentially a piece about how hard I’ve tried to see “both sides” and recognize the value of opposing arguments, opposing personalities, what have you, at the expense of my having any real position on anything and how apprehensive I was about the sustainability of this approach to virtually everything and what the consequences would be if/when I got off on any side of any of the various fences I was occupying.
If you can believe it, I have more clarity on my beliefs at thirty years old than I did at nineteen years old, and my fence occupation is probably at an all-time low at present. Still, some of my fears at nineteen proved valid, and my last post here on Non Finito Spaghetti, “My White Friends and Family, Please Read This,” got the reception I somewhat expected but somehow still hoped would be different. I asked for research into white privilege and the history of racism in this country and got paraphrased Google results about how “free Black people had also owned slaves” that, true as they might be, felt a lot less like “I’m understanding the role my race has had on my life in this country” and more like “I refuse to acknowledge my race or any role it has served in my life because, see, look at these Black people who did the same thing white people did” as if the relatively small number of Black enslavers could really compare to the centuries of enslavement in the Americas that overwhelmingly benefited and still benefits white people, especially in the US. I got people who I knew agreed with me already replying encouragingly to me and radio silence from most of those who I most desperately hoped would hear me.
It could have been much worse, of course. But the initial and persisting feeling is that people aren’t willing to listen to me the same way I’ve tried to listen to them. I can’t say there was no naivety at play, but I had tried to brace myself for this possibility the best I could, and it hurt anyway.
A lot of why I’d put so much energy in the past into not committing to anything is because I love people, deeply, and at risk of plagiarizing Anne Frank, I did and do believe that pretty much everyone is earnestly trying to do their best and is trying to do good, even if the result is not good or if I just disagree. I hoped my efforts would model empathy and self-reflection for those who might not be as naturally inclined to them, and I thought my [self-perceived] clear and consistent attempts at understanding people would maybe add some weight to anything I did feel strongly enough about to pick a side on. “Conceited,” “self-aware,” “un-self-aware,” I don’t really know or care what people would want to call that perspective from me, but I hoped all of it would amount to me being more than doormat.
All this to say that there are people in my life who, whether they’ve rebranded it for themselves as something like “meritocracy” or they know it for what it is, have communicated in varied ways that they support existing systematic oppression, especially racially but in plenty of other ways as well, and I’ve needed to figure out what to do about it for myself. That weight I’d hoped I had in my favor feels like it was a hope and nothing more, and I’ve tried to keep trying by way of random impromptu essays Facebook comments on posts where it seemed like there was an opportunity to engage meaningfully, but writing these random impromptu essays comments takes a lot of time, especially with the multiple revisions I make to remove as much charged/confrontational/”emotional” language as I can, so far doesn’t seem to get much of anywhere with anyone, are on posts that half the time get deleted anyway because of what I commented (or get me blocked, in at least one case), and I admit to my patience being shorter than usual these days and my time being more precious to me.
And I haven’t been a paragon of mediation even when it’s the core of my problem-solving approach. I make incorrect judgements on people’s motivations and don’t always offer the necessary patience to listen to someone I’m not understanding long enough to understand them. I owe people apologies right now and haven’t made them. I can’t pretend I didn’t have the built-in escape route from making wrong decisions in mind as a protective measure—you can’t make the wrong decision if you don’t make a decision, right? I do try to keep my nobler motivations the most in focus, though, to guide my actions as much as possible.
I know I can’t save the world or change the mind of anyone, really, let alone “enough” people. I try not to take it personally; I know it all goes deeper than the impact of any of my individual actions and that a lot of the things I want “fixed” aren’t “for” or about or because of me, but it very much hammers home how little influence I have at the moment for making anything better, which doesn’t exactly feel good either. I don’t feel like I’m much closer to an answer about what to do than I felt I was a year ago, so, barring Facebook comments, I’ve been keeping my distance from a lot of people while I work on it, whether they are the people challenging me most on this or are not.
Not unrelated to the above is the apparent and stunning descent into conspiracy theories and religious and political extremism that people in my life have made in the last year and the impact of that descent, keeping a barrier up in what in many cases were already difficult relationships for me and adding a barrier in relationships that weren’t as difficult prior. I don’t need or want to get too into any of this particular feature of the pandemic for me, but as far as the title of this post, it has a fair bit to do with the impossible task of convincing people who’ve already decided they believe in something made up that it is made up because it is impossible to… prove a negative.
So that’s the summarized bulk of the, I guess, personal developments since roughly March 2020 that I’m willing to put on the internet; now they’re in one place, which is perhaps convenient if I’ve talked to you about bits and pieces here and there or haven’t talked to you about any of it. This is an imperfect post—I miss feeling like I wrote well and feeling like I communicated well—but if “Perfection is the enemy of the good” hasn’t defined my last three or thirty years, I don’t know what has, so I’m publishing this because we’re going on a week since I started it and I need to move on. If you made it this far, here are pictures of my cats as compensation for your time:
Or maybe Strife is the goofus and Samhain is the doofus. I don’t really remember.
The most well-targeted ad social media’s ever given me was probably for a t-shirt that says “Empathy is more rebellious than a middle finger.” Part of why that shirt was well-targeted is because I love people. So much. I want them to be happy and healthy and safe and compassionate and successful and seen and valued and loved. It’s incredibly important to me to consider other people’s perspectives and why someone is doing what they’re doing, even if I don’t like what they’re doing. Empathy is the best way I know how to do that. I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts around the message on that shirt for several weeks now, mostly in response to COVID-19 and the pain I’ve felt and observed—and still feel and observe—because of it, but right now Black people are dominating my heart.
I am by no means an expert in racial issues. I’m still recognizing my own biases and combating them, and I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past, but I’m trying. What I am an expert on is my own experiences, and some of them are:
Like pretty much anyone else in American public schools, I learned that Racism is Wrong. It’s a simple and logical concept for a kid to grasp, and my influences at home seemed to support that idea. No one was saying white people are better than Black people or that white people deserved more.
Despite growing up primarily in the American South, most of my family is pretty Northern, which created, for me at least, an illusion that I and mine are specially immune to racial prejudice—“My family didn’t own slaves,” etc. I’m not aware of conclusive evidence that parts of my family did own enslaved people*, but I’ve definitely found evidence that we’re not immune to racial prejudice just in my own actions, to say nothing about the unhelpful stereotypes about Northern and Southern people that are tied up in that view of things.
As an early teenager, a white person who I’ve looked up to once said, “I’m not racist against Black people—I’m racist against n*****s,” the latter defined essentially as a Black person with an attitude; the example given was a hypothetical Black man crossing the street slowly in front of their car with an air of entitlement. I didn’t have the vocabulary or awareness at the time to challenge that effectively, and hearing that from a role model set me back because it made me think that… maybe this is an acceptable position to have.
I do have the vocabulary and awareness now, and racism is racism is racism. It is wrong, no matter how you spin it to be about their character. The discussion of whether or not “reverse racism” exists doesn’t matter here—this is not a good enough excuse for a white person to call anyone a n*****. There isn’t a good enough excuse.
It has taken me a long time to disagree with some of the things I learned growing up. As early as I can remember, I trusted the people telling me about the world, and questioning authority does not come naturally to me. I think some of that is just how I am—I do try to assume the best intentions of everyone, and I don’t get off on conflict or discord—and a lot of that is because, for all its issues, my childhood and upbringing were pretty happy and secure, and I didn’t have to worry much about what other people would do to me. If something was happening that I didn’t like or didn’t think was fair, I usually assumed it was that way because it had to be. Surely people knew to try other options and they just didn’t work? Turns out that a lot of things happening that I don’t like or don’t think are fair don’t have to be; too many things are the way they are because of inequitable power structures trying to maintain themselves.
I’d like to think that if I lived in another era, without the already-lain groundwork of the American Civil War and the civil rights movements and without as ready access to all the resources and accounts of different experiences that I have through the internet, I’d still eventually have recognized racial inequities as they are… but I’m not so sure I would have, and that’s really uncomfortable to know about myself. At least I know it. I hope that the internet can be the resource to others that it has been to me in regards to recognizing and stopping racism where I otherwise might not have.
In my early twenties, I started looking up feminism—a thentofore “bad” word—and racism in earnest. How much I didn’t know about other people’s lives now and in the past stunned me, and I went through all the stages of grief that often accompany white guilt when you recognize that you have privilege. The final stage, for me, has indeed been acceptance—not of the conditions we live in now, but of my potential role in improving those conditions. In my later twenties, I’ve tried to keep up my education on those subjects and have also tried to learn more about ableism, gender, and whatever prejudices against other marginalized groups I can. From everything I’ve seen and heard, racism amplifies pretty much every other prejudice people experience.
I speak up more, mostly online but in in-person conversations as well, against racist beliefs, misconceptions, and statements. I’ve been called a “brainwashed liberal,” and it used to scare me to get a label like that that would put me outside of some of my white in-groups and put me clearly into an “other” category when I want to get along with everyone. It doesn’t scare me as much anymore, though it’s disappointing and painful to have people close to me reduce my intellect, experiences, and education to not only a broad-strokes stereotype but a tired one, let alone the intellects, experiences, and educations of the people actually suffering from racism who are informing a lot of my beliefs now. I care more about defending people who need it than I do about being called names, though, and I’m sure some of the people calling me names think I’m reducing their experiences, too. I really try not to. Sometimes I think I succeed.
I’ve definitely been the person tired because I was asked to explain research I had made the effort to do to people who couldn’t be bothered to do the same because they wanted it spoonfed to them under the guise of a discussion. I’ve also been the person asking for a devil’s-advocate discussion; in one instance that stands out to me, I got a very gracious decline and was still hurt because they didn’t want to have a conversation with me, as if they hadn’t already written plenty about it for me to read or even knew who I was.
There’s a near-relentless insistence in parts of my life that we must be able to say racist, sexist, and other hurtful things to each other “as a joke” without getting upset in order for us to be able to successfully coexist. I know you can’t please everyone—someone still may be hurt—and my sense of humor isn’t exactly vanilla, but it is not more important to me to say whatever crosses my mind than it is to just… try to say kind things to people. Somehow I manage to laugh often, despite these “restraints.”
In one conversation, I said white privilege is real to someone insisting it isn’t, tried to explain what that means, and was asked over and over, “Why are you so determined to be miserable?!” as if systemic racism is something I made up because I was bored and wanted to be sad about something, rather than an extremely well-documented and shockingly visible reality if you just open your eyes to experiences beyond your own (or to peer-reviewed statistics, or to video evidence).
While I wouldn’t describe myself as “miserable,” and certainly not because I’m determined to be, I admit I’m a much sadder person since I’ve started learning about how deep racism runs in our country and the world. And I try very hard not to be bitter, but I am angry. I’m angry that people who came before me didn’t do better. I’m angry that people who exist with me now are actors of racism, explicit and implicit. I’m angry that the color of a person’s skin should be so incredibly neutral and is so horrifically not.
There’s this bizarre, sick sense of loss I feel sometimes because I exist in a time when I don’t get to “enjoy” my privilege worry-free like I might have earlier in our history when it was easier to bury our heads in the sand, and I don’t get to be worry-free in the context of post-racism either since we plainly are not. Similarly, if a Black person gets something nice that’s just for them as a Black person, I’ve wanted something special just for me, too, even though there would be no need for the Black person to get something special if I didn’t already have race-based advantages in the first place. These are selfish feelings and they don’t reflect well on me, but I want to acknowledge them because I’m not the only white person who’s felt these ways, and I know they can be a barrier to hearing and understanding what happens to Black people or getting on board with fighting racism more actively. The feelings are real and upsetting, but they’re not Black people’s problem, and they’re not more important than the fact that racism is wrong and needs to be stopped.
I was raised Christian and pagan. A tenet from Christianity is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A tenet from the paganism I was taught is, “Do as you will, but harm none.” Absorbing these guidances is particularly where empathy fits into how I try to move through the world. I’ve needed grace. I’ve needed patience. I’ve needed understanding. I’ve needed slack. I’ve needed safety. I’ve needed advocacy. I’ve needed opportunities. I’ve needed peace. I’ve had most of these needs met as they arose, blessings I’m more grateful for all the time. I want to offer those things to others that need them. Black people need them, so here I am.
I want to be part of the solution to this increasingly unignorable stain on our culture, and I’ve spent the last ~six years mulling over a rambling account such as this of my journey to recognizing modern racism with the hopes that other white people might see some of themselves in where I started and where I’ve ended up and decide to help fight that racism. I remember wishing for accounts like mine describing the messy parts of becoming an ally that seem to be uniquely white. Maybe you don’t see yourself in any of this—my story isn’t exceptionally extreme—but I’m trying to meet people where they are.
More than that, I am begging my white friends and family to please see the humanity of Black people and recognize that we have to do something for this to stop, especially if we’re going to demand it be done “peacefully”—something people have been trying to do for hundreds of years, and they have been roundly ignored and ridiculed by people with the power to effect broad change, including us. We have to listen to and support the people who are suffering for the color of their skin. Black people don’t get to have a little human rights for good behavior, as a treat. They’re entitled to them. We’re faced with chances every single day to confront racism, and we can start with ourselves.
There are plenty of “But what abouts” to things I’ve written here that I’ve worked through myself or have talked to others about (“But what about looters and rioters, what about people who take advantage of me, what about Black people who are prejudiced against white people, what about my safety, etc., etc., etc.”), and for all the specificity I tried to offer, this is definitely a high-level account of my experiences and of recognizing privilege. A thousand other things fell into place over the course of my life that I couldn’t describe here, some that helped me and some that didn’t.
I’m routinely disappointed, upset, and outraged about racist choices white people near and far from me make and I’m not upset when people call racism racism, but, whether it’s deserved or not, I don’t think shame inspires positive action very well, and I didn’t name names for the white people I spoke with in the points above. However, I, Jerrika, am personally asking you, my white friends and family, to do some research right now on white privilege and the history of violence against Black people in our country, and I am asking you to look inward and truly identify where you fall in your support for Black people and condemnation of racism—especially if you think any of those conversations were with you or could ever have been with you, even hypothetically.
As I said, I’m not an expert. There are myriad (often free! Google is free!) resources both abbreviated and thorough by people who are experts that put racism and privilege into the clearest of terms, as well as ways to dismantle them, and I’m forever grateful for the generosity of these people’s time, research, and vulnerability in sharing their and others’ stories and calling out the racism both blatant and masked that pervades our society today. I hope we give these efforts the respect they’re due sooner than later and enact the changes so desperately needed. Please do the work. Please listen to Black voices. Please give them your support.
The right thing is the right thing no matter what anyone else is doing, and you either believe racism is wrong or you don’t. You’re either part of the effort to stop it or you’re not. It’s true that I love you, and I want you on my side. But if you’re Black, I love you, too, and I hear you, and I stand with you. Because Black lives matter.
*Edit: I originally posted this with what I am told was a false statement that parts of my family probably did own enslaved people. I wrote this based on information I’d heard that further research into our family tree has made inconclusive. The point of this post is honesty, so I’ve updated this information for the sake of accuracy. Whether or not my family owned slaves changes nothing about the takeaway of that part of the narrative here: I’ve thought my family owned slaves and thought they didn’t, and I had racial biases and privilege either way. I’m not off the hook for addressing those things within myself or in our country just because my white family might not have owned human beings whose descendants are, with certainty, still being discriminated against right now, and neither are you.
…uhhh, a lot. When I started this project five(!) years ago, I wasn’t sure where it was going, and I still haven’t finished some of the pieces it started with—I should probably at least finish the article for The Treaty of Paris since that page apparently comes up in organic search once in a while. But hey! I know what that means now, so I haven’t been wasting all of this time. I remain unsure of where this project is going, but I don’t want to give up on it yet. It is, after all, my first website, and it’s a project that is meta in a very Jerrika way. I’m a bit attached to it.
In 2013, I maybe expected to be in Boston by now, but I didn’t think I’d be here for a master’s degree, and I didn’t think I’d be here alone. My heart’s been broken in a few different ways in the last few years. I wasn’t counting on that, and it was a collection of disappointments. I don’t know if I really got anything out of the heartbreak itself, but it happened. Say what you will about lessons learned and the journey of life or whatever—and I’m someone who believes strongly in not dwelling on regrets—they were not experiences I wanted, and I don’t feel good looking back on them. I try to capitalize on them creatively, if nothing else, but I don’t hope for more of that kind of pain for me or anyone. One of my biggest takeaways from the last five years is that people you trust will let you down. Not always, but your favorites will fuck up, and they won’t always come back from it. In my case that’s been… okay, I guess. It turns out I don’t need them to come back from it, because apparently I can take care of myself better than anyone else will.
That said, to say that I’m “alone” isn’t true in every sense here. Although “learning who your real friends are” is a bit of a cliché, I can say I have, and, again, it wasn’t a test I was looking for, but I am grateful to the inordinate number of people who have stepped up in my life whether I asked them to or not. I’ve made so many outstanding friends, before Boston and in it, and I’m frankly overwhelmed most days by how much I love and admire the people in my life. I feel things all the time.
My family is growing and dividing and redistributing, and I’m blessedly and distressingly at least six hundred miles away from all of it. I’m going to be an aunt in July/August, and whatever tensions are in my immediate family seem to be in some kind of a stasis, but beyond my parents and sisters I have a handful of concerns and relationships that either stay on my mind or disappear long enough to collect a healthy amount of guilt to offer when they return. I feel things all the time.
Alone isn’t true in every sense because I’m not getting enough time to myself these days either. I’m frequently in public or professional spaces for twelve or more hours a day (which may be normal, but I’m not sure, and either way I don’t like it), I don’t think I can remember the last time that I spent two days on my own, and if I’m spending time with one/some of the aforementioned many people I know, I am probably investing a lot of it because I try to form deep connections. One of many facts pointing to a misguided sense of self-preservation is that, despite cultivating significantly more relationships than people around me seem to do, I am an introvert. I like my company, and I like being left alone for extended periods of time. I prefer it. I miss me very much right now.
I don’t know how much of any of it is anyone’s business or interest, but I’m doing a lot. Maybe not by some standards—I have a lot of unpacked boxes in my house here like I did when Non Finito Spaghetti started, I don’t eat well most days because it’s easier to not, and I post a lot more pictures of my cat than I used to post—but it’s certainly a lot compared to my past productivity levels, and I’m tired. I’m getting a better idea of what I have to offer, but I don’t know what to do with it, so I started saying yes to everything to see what would happen because fuck it, if trying to be careful will still land you by yourself (but not alone), why not? That sounds dramatic—rest assured no one’s offering me anything particularly dangerous so far; it’s just that it all adds up. I’m tired.
Hello! Welcome to Non Finito Spaghetti, a project in which I, Jerrika L. Waller, seek the means to conquer my inability to finish things.
I have an About page explaining the origin of the project, you should definitely check it out.
During this project, I conducted interviews via Skype and research about other people’s unfinished projects, and have created a page for each project. Peruse them at your leisure, and if you have any thoughts about any of them, please leave a comment!
I plan to update semi-regularly in the future regarding the completion of other projects I’ve started, but for now this project’s content is primarily in the pages across the top, so please focus on and discuss ideas there.
The other blog posts are also relevant to the project; feel free to comment on those as well.
Thanks for visiting!
P.S. I made and photographed that spaghetti on the left there myself. I am very proud. I can personally confirm that spaghetti does stick to the wall when it’s done.
I expected that when I started telling people about this project, someone would strike upon how “funny” or “ironic” or whatever it would be if I didn’t finish my project on unfinished projects. I was not disappointed; my Facebook post requesting interview volunteers got a “hah, it would be kind of hilarious if you never finished this project of interviewing people who never finished their projects,” and one of my interviewees also commented that it would be “ironic.” While I can see the humor in this prospect, my first reaction was always to laugh and say “yeah, that’s my biggest fear with this whole thing,” trying not to take it personally while knowing that, really, that is my biggest fear with this whole thing. I’ve never completely fallen off the accomplishment wagon, but I’ve spent a lot of time toeing the line for how much I can get away with not doing because I don’t feel like it.
Deadlines help for a lot of things, when I’m being productive, but I already know I am capable of watching critical deadlines go by without caring too much. I almost didn’t graduate high school because I didn’t finish a major project for my English class on time; the teacher pulled me aside and told me I would fail this very necessary class without turning it in, and said I could work on it over the weekend to turn it in on Monday, even though the due date was well past. I responded to that opportunity to finish the project by blowing it off, again. My teacher was–justly–furious, and the guidance office contacted my mother to inform her of this threat to my graduation. I don’t remember what deal we worked out, but I did finish the project with a third deadline that I absolutely did not deserve, and graduated like I was supposed to. My diploma was tinged with guilt, but it was over. I moved on.
My main point here is that not completing this project has been a very real fear for me because I have very real evidence that I will not do something if I don’t feel like it. I’m approaching the same point in my college career that I was in my high school career when I said fuck it to anything I didn’t want to do. What’s stopping me from doing it again? Technically nothing. I remember an awful book one of my friends had in middle school, Conversations with God for Teens, and one of the questions was something to the effect of “Why do I have to listen to my parents?” “God” replied that “You don’t have to do anything. You are free to choose to do whatever you want.” Although it completely ignored the commandment to “obey thy mother and father,” I don’t remember if the book put too much emphasis on the consequences of doing whatever you want.
Either way, I spend a *lot* of time thinking about what would happen if I just didn’t do some thing I’m expected to do. I could literally and easily do none of my homework. Mighty Odin will not smite me. The government will not track me down. My professor will probably not even track me down. If I wanted, I could stay in my bed until I starved to death, and absolutely nothing could stop me besides being forcibly removed from that place. I know a lot of people who would cry “No! I can’t stand sitting still and not doing anything or getting anything done!” Perhaps I’m just on my own here, but I’m pretty sure it’s easier than they think, especially when the momentum isn’t there. It is not a challenge to do something you’d rather do when the alternative is something you don’t want to do. I would say that these people should try it, but having seen the consequences of that behavioral pattern in my own life, I think it’s something that should be suggested on a case-by-case basis.
People force themselves to do things they don’t want to do all the time. They get out of bed, they study, they make small-talk with annoying people, they let the dogs outside at obscene hours. None of these things *have* to happen. The world will continue if they don’t. These things are only required when an “if” comes into the situation, when there’s a desired outcome. I have to feed my cat IF I want her to shut up and quit trying to open her food container on her own at 8 in the morning. I have to read a play for class IF I want to contribute and earn any participation points. I have to finish this project IF I don’t want to fail Multimedia Composition.
I also have to finish this project if I want to prove to myself that I haven’t lost all my drive to the internet, pride, and apathy. I have to finish this project if I want to know that I am capable of finishing something worthwhile.
Through working on this project, I have learned that, though not everyone is necessarily on my level of non-accomplishment, there are points on which all us non-finitos can relate.
In my case, this project has helped me realize that talking to people about projects I’m going to do helps create some of the pressure I need to get things done. I work better if I have a schedule, and although I didn’t follow the schedule I’d created for this project, listing out everything I would need to do by when helped make the project seem a little smaller and more doable. I made more progress getting this rather bigger idea done than many of my smaller ideas from the past few years.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I made any particularly groundbreaking discoveries throughout this process as far as how to get things done. You just have to work. A number of factors play into completing projects, and the only thing I noticed in common with all of them was time—spending too much, not spending enough, spending it in other places. All of my interviews mentioned how important this factor was in what they had tried to accomplish.
One thing in particular that stood out to me throughout this project is the effect one unfinished project can have. Dave commented on the domino effect of home improvement projects, noting that one completed project can suddenly render something else an unfinished project by comparison. Ryan’s project spills over into other things he participates in, such as his role-playing games. The Treaty of Paris, 1783 is significantly more memorable to me because it isn’t finished, and the unfinished creations of Donatello and Michelangelo have inspired other things long after work upon them had ceased.