I've been thinking about the currently popular phrase, "Netflix and chill". When we bingewatch our favorite shows, it seems intuitive that we surf on tsunamis of dopamine that smash our systems and result in waves of pleasure. Common productivity techniques advise us to organize some sort of reward system - for every three hours of work, watch one episode of your show so that you can come to the conclusion that hard work yields reward.
But I think this technique can be reversed. Work-for-reward insinuates that work can't evolve beyond being a means. I offer that resistance to work can be inverted to make work an end in and of itself.
Instead of ending your work session with a show, start off with it. Pick a show that gets your heart to shadowbox. Shows can stimulate as often as they relax. Stop using Netflix to chill - try using it to get your blood pumping and palms sweating in anticipation for what the future could hold.
I came back from CMU on Saturday. I've spent all of my waking hours working on pieces since then. I'll be flying out again tomorrow. This four-day-cosm-of-work has felt surreal in that each day has had the robust feeling of a ripple effect. I feel like I've always taken a sort of "work now, sleep later" attitude towards things, but never to the extreme level I've been functioning at for the past couple of days. So this question of where the ripple effect originated from, the pebble in the pond so to speak, remains. Is Mercury in retrograde? Did I inhale too much fixative in the spray booth? Has a productivity chip in my brain been activated by some extradimensional beings? All valid questions. Truth be told, I think the best answer is this: saturation.
And I know you're probably reading this and thinking something along the lines of, "Carnegie Mellon finally broke Maheen", a thought that I won't completely deny. Because in a sense, six weeks of creating things did break-no, shatter-a version of me. See, I think it can be said with some degree of truth that our thoughts are what make us us. And there are thoughts that we accept, others we deny, some we pretend don't exist, many that grow to become action, and a potentially infinite other sorting boxes for thoughts. How we compartmentalize those thought creates some level of distinguishability between one being and another - for instance, me and you may have the same thought if we see a crying child. We both think, "I should help that child out", but perhaps I act upon that thought and help the child and you don't. Or vice versa. Do you see how we react to our thoughts can define us?
I digress, but I'll digress some more. This is a story that I've rarely told others, but now you and dozens of others will read. When I was a child, I moved around quite a bit. At some point, I knew I was only going to be at a school for six months, so I decided to have some fun with it. I faked an accent. In retrospect, it probably wasn't even a vaguely convincing accent, but the point is that I saw an opportunity to create a new version of myself and I took it. That opportunity existed because I understood that my interaction with these people was only temporary. Now, nearly eight years later, that opportunity arose again in the form of Carnegie Mellon's pre-college art+design program (say that five times fast - I quintuple dare you).
Remember how I said the reason why I've been working so much recently is saturation? While I was there (Pittsburgh), there was little need to hold back on my quirks and quazitones because I knew that my direct interaction with everyone was limited to six weeks. I had an opportunity to throw all care to the wind and be the most saturated version of myself I wanted to be - and so I did.
And that feeling of existence in its purest form, in responding to my thoughts in the most honest way, provided a sense of liberation that's rippled out to even now. Recently, I feel like I've been adding some sort of gung-ho moral-to-the-story layer to these showerthoughts. This quote that originated somewhere in the deep abyss of Facebook (Chris Crocker? Patti Russo?) best encapsulates what I've learned in the past six weeks:
You will always be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too edgy. If you round out your edges, you lose your edge. Apologize for mistakes. Apologize for unintentionally hurting someone - profusely. But don't apologize for being who you are.