On Procrastination and Labradors

The longer I go without finishing this blog, the funnier it gets. I started it almost two weeks ago and then left it alone in my documents folder. Fortunately, I’m not alone in my imperfection – procrastination seems to be pretty universal, according to my extensive accidental research that I’ve done while actually procrastinating. Because obviously a better cure for procrastination than actually finishing my blog post is reading five books on procrastination and then cleaning the kitchen because I can’t start anything else until I’ve written a treatise on how I’m going to beat my procrastination.

I think I’m allergic to starting anything until either a) I know it’s gonna be great or b) THE DEADLINE IS TOMORROW. Option B happens 95% of the time, and deadlines are the only reason I’ve done the majority of the things I can put on a school application or a resumé. The other 5% of the time never. Happens. Instead, this weird thing happens where I’m totally unsure about how The Thing will turn out but I do it anyway. That is the reason I’ve finished writing novels, have a massive stash of my drawings and paintings back home, and am on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.

A few weeks ago, on a Tuesday, I realized that I had a free weekend coming up. I’ve already spent several weeks squirrelled away in my flat, pretending to do homework but actually reading, cleaning, or cooking. My primary form of exploration has been finding new cafés to sit in and actually do homework. Tuesday, I agonized over what I should do – I hadn’t planned anything, should I just stay home again and wait for a better weekend? No, absolutely not. I came here to see Scotland, not just the inside of one flat. But what to do? A grand solo adventure up to Inverness? A hike around Loch Lomond? A weekend in Aberdeen? Or stay in Glasgow and just go to a museum?

Luckily, I wasn’t alone in a hidey-hole in a tea shop when I had this moment. I was in my flat, with friends who pulled me back into reality. No, a giant solo trip isn’t a good idea when just going grocery shopping wipes me out, but it’s time to adventure a little more. I’d already been to Edinburgh for a day trip, maybe it would be good to go there again so I’m not as overwhelmed. But this time, think about going overnight – that way I’ve done it and I can go a little farther next time. Within half an hour, I had a friend from the RCS to travel with, a return train ticket and an AirBnB booked for Friday night.

I was terrified. I felt underprepared, I had no events to go to, I had no idea how to use the public transportation, and I didn’t even know where I was going to go to dinner. (priorities, right?) It didn’t matter, I’d bought the tickets and refused to waste the money. So I did some Googling and found an article on Edinburgh by Alexander McCall Smith. Said article suggested canal walks and delicatessens – much more my speed than battling the crowds to pay £18 to get into Edinburgh Castle.

The trip was gloriously imperfect. I packed my backpack, proceeded to accidentally soak it in the tiny RCS bathroom, and hopped on the train with not one but three other musicians, complete with harp and fiddle. I couldn’t get into my AirBnB, so I had to find a café with free WiFi so I could look up the check-in instructions again. I found the check-in instructions (I’d been using the wrong key) but I also found a café with a designated overly affectionate Labrador on duty and tablet made by the owner’s mum. I went to the Italian delicatessen alone, found a restaurant in the back, and ate dinner there alone – spending an hour over a wonderfully rich, smooth chocolate torte. I then met up with my fiddler friend and we went to a Scottish music session in a pub on the Royal Mile.

After my beautiful anti-procrastination trip, I came home and proceeded to procrastinate my essay for the next week. In the end, it doesn’t matter how many blogs you read (or write!) about beating procrastination, how many plans you make, or how good you are at the theory of not procrastinating anymore. It matters that you decide to act now, with the acceptance of all the resources that are and are not at your disposal.

I know I’m not going to start a revolution of thought or write the most profound Thing ever to exist. I know that in many ways, my essays, travels, and interactions will be very, very average. I’m still going to try to be exceptional – I don’t think it’s possible to turn off my “GIVE 200%!!!” switch. But it’s a heck of a lot better to give a disorganized 80% than to give 0% by never doing the Thing at all.


Alice Major

SCOTLAND – UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, 2018 FALL

Alice Major is studying at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. She is a double major, focusing mostly on music and adding history because history is cool. Study abroad is Alice’s first time out of the country, and she hopes to come home in one piece and with a wicked Scottish accent.

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King Arthur and Merlin

Guys, I am in the land of ancient kings and castles. Naturally, I’m taking a class that is essentially a crash-course in the last millennium of Scotland’s history. We finished the Wars of Independence last week (far more dramatic than even Braveheart paints them) and went over the entire Scottish Reformation in one lecture. Fun fact, apparently kings from Robert the Bruce to James VI (centuries later) quote the unbroken line of 113 Scottish kings. One hundred and thirteen at the time of Robert the Bruce, and no more or less during James VI’s reign.

Questionable as that statement is, it illustrates the sheer power of the mythology of this ancient kingdom. Edinburgh Castle is still an active  garrison, and rally leaders for the second Independence Referendum quote the 700-year-old Declaration of Arbroath. In its self-checkout stations and contactless payment options, Scotland is very modern, but in other ways, it’s ancient to a level that is hard for my American mind to grasp.

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Meanwhile, it’s been a while since I posted. It’s a gap I didn’t intend before lectures swept me up into a whirlwind of note-taking and then buried me under a pile of reading. On top of that, there’s the realities of being in another country, as well as my dreams of hiking the Highlands and spending nights at trad music sessions. This madness has made me very aware of my personality and limitations.

For example, I can only really attend one, at max two, social events a day. This includes choir rehearsals and even the tutorials required for my courses. Otherwise, a variety of things can happen. I can end up feeling like my nervous system is frizzing. Often I zone out and stare blankly without really hearing or saying anything. Sometimes I get so tired that everything is extremely funny. This overwhelm has been a constant ever since I can remember, but I’ve always wondered, why do I respond this way?

For a long time, I thought I got overwhelmed so easily because I’m an introvert. Introversion explains why I love to sit quietly and research and why I prefer to socialize in small groups. That makes sense. But all of my research into introversion revealed that while large crowds and a rapid series of events can drain introverts, it did not indicate that these situations could overwhelm one’s entire body.

I found my answer in the university library. A few years ago, my dad mentioned the idea of a highly sensitive person (someone who happens to sense and feel everything more intensely) in passing. So when I saw a book titled – you guessed it – The Highly Sensitive Person on the shelf, I was drawn to it – especially since the subtitle was “how to thrive when the world overwhelms you.” Jangled by a day of walking up and down bustling Byers Road, I curled up in my quiet room to read it.

Elaine N. Aron’s book, backed up by years of scientific and psychological research, assured me that I am not, in fact, crazy. Fifteen to twenty percent of the population shares the same intense sensitivity that seems to dominate my life. More people than I could have imagined have the same tendency to pick up on the mood of every person in the room, take criticism to heart, and bounce off the walls after one cup of coffee.

I’ve often considered a career as a hermit. Some of us HSP’s do end up retreating. However, some of us brave the huge world of crowds of people, of drama that affects us intensely, and even scents that overwhelm our consciousness. Sometimes we go on to do great things.

In her psychological framework, Elaine refers to us as the king’s advisors. Behind the scenes of the reigns of kings like Malcolm I and Robert the Bruce, and even the legendary King Arthur, there were the Merlins, the people who would stop and check and guide their brave king to victory. Behind the great revolutions (and the not-so-great ones) of the last four centuries are those to whom the injustice to the people cannot be ignored, and they must understand it, they must write the great texts, they must change the world.

I don’t claim to know the neurological makeup of every great writer and thinker of history, nor do I necessarily commend all of their actions. However, it’s really exciting to find people like me in a historical record full of great adventurous men. My high sensitivity now seems more like a superpower – like a Spidey Sense!

Granted, I’m still a little annoyed that the mere passing of a motorcycle makes me flinch. It’s rather disappointing to be knackered after only an hour walking around Edinburgh Castle. However, I have a greater understanding of my strengths. My thin skin means I can empathize intensely. My acute hearing means that when the fire alarm goes off down the block, I hear it. And, least practical but best side effect, I can taste everything in my favorite mocha.

 


Alice Major

SCOTLAND – UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW, 2018 FALL

Alice Major is studying at the University of Glasgow in Glasgow, Scotland. She is a double major, focusing mostly on music and adding history because history is cool. Study abroad is Alice’s first time out of the country, and she hopes to come home in one piece and with a wicked Scottish accent.

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