(This story was originally published by Potato Soup Journal: http://potatosoupjournal.com/the-one-thing-by-amita-basu/)
THE ONE THING
Will today be the day?
He’s done all the work. He’s read the literature, designed the experiments, collected the data, analysed the data, written up the papers. All he has to do now is write his doctoral thesis.
Then he’ll earn his degree. Then, perhaps, her parents will let him marry her. Once he’s a doctor. Then he and she will have to plan the wedding, fund it, decide where to live, pray that they find jobs in the same city, decide when to have children.
Then he’ll have finished his PhD! Then he can go home, spend a month with his family, take his parents around the country. He’s been saving his stipend.
Then he’ll have embarked properly on his academic career. Who knows what he will do? He wants to do so much.
Then he’ll be out of here. He’s spent seven years here. Worked much. Suffered much. He’s ready to leave. He can’t wait to leave.
He wants to write his thesis. With all his heart. On this one thing, everything depends. Everything that he needs to do this, he has. No excuses, now.
He needs to write his thesis. Until he does, he’s forbidden himself. To go out. To eat a hot meal. To shave his beard. To chat with a friend. Last weekend, in the middle of the eight-month Indian summer, he added another: No bathing till I’ve written my thesis.
He stinks. He smells himself stinking. Yet, somehow, mysteriously, this newest deprivation, too, fails to make him.
So many incentives. How have they all failed?
He springs out of bed, eager. Too eager. He can do this! He must do this! He’s done everything he can to make himself do this!
He prepares to sit down to the magnitudinous task. He must work all day and all night, to make up for all the yesterdays when he sat down and stared at the blank screen and ran away. To do the things he’s forbidden himself to do. To do anything except fail to do this aganin.
Yesterday, too, he ran way. Crushed by the weight of the one thing on which everything depends.
One upon a time, he wanted to do this.
Will today be the day?
Do you suffer from anxiety? How do you handle it? This story is about a PhD candidate colleague. But anxiety can strike anyone. Have you ever been trapped in this kind of cycle of excessively high expectations, perfectionism, and paralysis? How did you break free from it?
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