This quote, beautifully illustrated on Instagram by a friend, is one I know to be true. And yet – I can’t feel it to be so.
Even though I haven’t been paid for the past few months for it, I have been hacking away at my research as normal. Hacking being an operative verb here: I’m not sure I’m doing it any favours by trying to keep going, but deadlines and requests from others, keep me plugging away. It’s more than that though: I really can’t – I daren’t let it go.
But why? There are some solid, evidence-based reasons. I am repeatedly told in interview feedback to write more, publish more. If I don’t do that now, more time will have elapsed when I next interview, and relatively fewer publications will be shown for it. Publish or perish.
I am frightened to let it go. Frightened that people say that they admire my work, my research. If I am collaborating with them, it is not for my sake, being me, but because they like my work. If the work stops, the collaboration stops, (one co-author has already threatened to remove me from authorship when I asked for a few hours’ extension) and with it, any hope of future collaborations. I am scared of letting people down. If I do not work, I am not part of academia.
I must work. I work to drown out the suicide ideation that threatens to overcome me. When I work I am in flow. Flow means that time passes and I don’t have to feel bad for wasting it. And the psychiatrists say this, too. When crisis hits; bereavement, housemate arrested, parents separate, when anyone else I know in the same situation has been signed off, given space to breathe, the psychiatrists refuse to let me. Work is protective. Just as, 25 years ago, in spite of my classmates’ assertions not to work, the whispering, the name-calling, the teachers said that whatever they did, I was not to stop working. I must work.
Beyond work, it feels like nothing I do is of use. And people disagree with this, cite other qualities, and that feels weird, but lovely to hear. But it still feels as if I am useless beyond being able to work – being able to do for others. I need to learn how to be. Ho not to rely on work, but to rely on God. Grow in God.