I just had the craziest idea: what if, in the next two weeks I committed to studying for 80 hours? How would this be possible? It’s possible because, as my Muse said, I have the best job in the world. I have the next two weeks off. If I committed 8 hours a day, weekdays only, as if it were an actual job, I could do this easily. Of course, experience has taught me that I shouldn’t wait until Monday (it’s Friday now), but that I should get started right away in case (when) an interruption arises. Not counting tonight, I have 16 days until I return to work. If I worked every day, I’d only have to work five hours a day, not eight. Of course, rather than break down like that, it’s best just to set the larger goal (80 hours) and work as quickly and as well as I can. Here’s another way to look at it, 16x24=384. That’s 384 hours in the next two weeks, not including tonight (also not including anything else like sleep). If I focused, would it really be inconceivable to work for 80 of those hours towards my dream?
This idea comes at a good time because, really, the only things I want to do now and for the next two weeks is be with my Muse as I read, write, and study. I need her inspiration and encouragement every day. I can’t do this alone. In regards to the Master’s degree program that I enrolled in, I realize I have enlisted in a serious undertaking. It’s real and I’m not a child or an adolescent who needs his hand held by anyone but his Muse. It’s real and it’s huge. I have more work ahead of me than I’ve ever had in my life and I’m scared and excited at the same time. I was going to use the word “terrified,” but I’m not terrified. In fact, when I think about it, I’m not even really scared. But I was for a while.
When I first looked at the amount of work involved and when I took measure of my online colleagues, I felt overwhelmed and outclassed. At one point about a week ago I seriously considered calling the school and withdrawing. Then a couple of nights later I had a dream in which my professor told me I was failing so badly that I wasn’t getting an “F,” but an “N.” (I know there’s no such grade, but that’s how badly I was doing.) Fortunately, I was able to talk to my professor that day (a productive and encouraging conversation!) and I’m not failing. Besides, it’s only the second week. But here’s the thing: this will not be easy. I’m trying to earn a Master’s degree in American history (just writing those words makes me happy) and it’s just going to be hard.
M. Scott Peck starts The Road Less Traveled by saying:
Life is difficult.
This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.
I hope these ideas, attributed to and borrowed from Buddhism’s Four Noble Truths, apply to a Master’s program.
That last sentence was written with a smile. It may be possible to transcend the difficulty, but it won’t be possible to transcend the work. If I want a Master’s degree in American history (again written with a smile and great excitement), I have to do the work. I’ve been fortifying myself by listening to The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I’ve read it and referred to it many times, but only recently did I think about the title – The – WAR – of – Art. I’m in a war. I’m fighting the internal Enemy and all that it throws at me. I’m fighting fear. A beloved mentor said this to me:
I will quote from Frank Herbert’s Dune: “Fear is the mind killer!” Sounds like you’re holding on too tight. Remove the chains of fear from your mind and you’ll be fine. Remember, you’re doing this for yourself. Clear your mind of self-doubt and affirm your essential self.
My teacher is right in all but one thing: I’m also doing this for my Muse, because this degree is not the end, it’s just the beginning of the life I want with her.
I’m also fighting all the usual fights – distraction, procrastination, lack of self-care, poor time management, and responding to crises rather than planning ahead.
But, again, here’s the thing: I’m aware of how precious time is, because it is short. To build on Peck’s argument, one not only has to know and accept that life is difficult, but one should know and accept how difficult it is. What I’m doing is extremely difficult; but it’s not impossible. It’s been done literally millions of times before. It’s not inconceivable that I could study for 80 hours in the next two weeks. God has given me the mind and my Muse has given me the motivation. Now all I need is to Get Started and to Keep Going…for 80 hours.