Like every sucker out there (yes, that means you too) I bought into certain beliefs without even being fully aware of it. I thing that is what is called enculturation but indoctrination might also suffice. One such belief is that you finish what you start.
Or: I am not a quitter.
Except that I am. And not because I am subconsciously procrastinating but because I choose to give up.
There was a time when I was not a quitter. My first degree is a Bachelor’s degree. A licence to study anything you find interesting. In my first year I did Political Science and Criminology and Sociology and Psychology and Economics. In the second year I had to limit my options and I chose Sociology and Psychology. But then for the heck of it I added in Cultural History and Information Sciences (Not computers but library systems). But in my second year I hit the wall of not being really interested in any of these subjects anymore (especially not my majors Psychology and Sociology).
Ideally I would have liked to turn back to year one where I had an open choice and could choose anything I wanted to. But that is not the way things are done, so I didn’t.
I wasn’t a quitter and so I forced myself through the funk and came out on the other side with a degree in subjects I had no inclination to look at again for at least another decade.
I have hit that same wall again a number of times since. And more recently I have been quitting rather than sticking through with whatever I have lost interest in.
Which gives you, of course, Guilt (yes, with a capital ‘G’).
Because there is a whole belief system that the only people who are successful are people who do not quit.
Aren’t I working with my own definition of success?
I should be, shouldn’t I? Because I can’t work on anybody else’s definition because I am not them. And if in my definition quitting is not a failure then there should be no shame or guilt involved and I can continue to quit stuff with abandon.
Like now, at this moment, I have an academic paper riding me (To be honest it is more past tense now because I already quit that jockey). It is haunting my like a lost banshee wailing in the night. And even though it would not be a very big job it is not something I want to spend my energy on. But right now I do not want to finish the paper.
But why? Because I lost interest in the paper. I have not just lost interest, I detest any idea of picking it up and finishing it. Not that I never will. Who knows what can happen ten years from now.
Sometimes it is easy to see when a thing will be finished. If you start a play you know there is going to be a rehearsal process; and a performance; and then an end; and then you are done with it. Which, if you think about it, means the thing has a deadline. And what I did not realise with this paper is that I missed the deadline.
So, how did I get landed with this indigestible paper on my plate?
Last year I found out that the SAVAH (South African Association for Visual Art Historians) conference would be held in Pietermartizburg. It was at a time when I felt that I needed to get out and connect with people and places from my past and having spent seven years in ‘Maritzburg surely qualified.
So I cobbled together and idea for a paper, mailed it off and forgot about it. I was past deadline and I really didn’t care if it was accepted or not. But then it was and I had to write a paper. Which was a bummer because I think I write better proposals that papers and so I delayed writing it until the week before the conference when I again cobbled together something.
This I presented at the conference and thereby dispensed with my obligation and the ruse under which I got myself out of the house for a whole weekend and moving in circles where I don’t normally move.
What I know now was that that was the deadline. My deadline.
Except that now the paper needs submission. Which is an interesting quirk of academic papers in that they are presented at conferences but only submitted later (much later). Except there is nothing in it for me to submit the paper.
I will not get any points for it. Maybe some teaching PD points but who cares, I will already get that for the conference. My job is not dependent on it, nor my salary. I will not get a qualification, sponsorship or anything else from completing the paper. And more than that, I learned what I wanted to learn from the tiny scrap of theory that was in my paper. I will not learn more by finishing the paper and anyway; my ideas and thinking have moved on since I presented it.I have moved on.
By the by the paper took a stance against the limited theoretical focus in teaching art to grade 12 students and the effect of that on the artist-teacher. It sounds much more interesting stated like that.
What I should have done was to prepare a more complete paper before presenting it at conference. In fact, when the ideas for the paper was hot I had to write and finish it then and there. Then I would have presented it at conference, tweaked a sentence or two, and then submitted it because the conference was MY true deadline.
And I met my deadline, I got from the paper and the conference everything I wanted to get out of it, and more. My more knowing now that I can quit this now because quitting does not make me a failure. Quitting just means I am done when I say I’m done.
Okay, not quite. I have added a second painting, “Aestus”, to my shop. Yes, that is the one pictured above. Because I haven’t quit painting yet. Nor trying to foist it of onto somebody.