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FAQ: My Master’s Program Part I

A couple weeks ago, I asked my friends on Instagram if they’d be interested to hear about my experience in my master’s program. An overwhelming amount of them kindly said they did, so I went a step further and asked what they would like to know. Below are some of the questions I’ve received and my, hopefully, helpful responses. Some questions I reserved for Part II because they require more in-depth answers. I will be posting it soon though!

For context, I am a graduate student at the University of Guam pursuing a Master of Arts in English with a Literature track. I began my program in the Fall of 2018 and my projected graduation date is December 2020. As such, I can only give my experience and advice based on my specific program.

Here’s what I go over in Part I:

The Process and the Program
– What’s the process like?
– Why did you decide to go to UOG?
– In what cases is it beneficial to go straight for a PhD instead of a masters?
– Expectations vs Reality?
– Undergrad vs. Grad?
– Workload?

– Professor interaction compared to undergrad?

The Thesis Process:
– How do you choose a thesis?
– What is the process of completing that thesis?

– Best places for sources?
– How did you know who you wanted to work with? (e.g. thesis chair)
– For your thesis, would you consider doing that with other cultures’ stories?

My Personal Journey and Advice to You: 
– Fav moments?
– Fav things you’ve read?
– Is it worth it?
– Does your future career choice require a masters?
– What can you do with your degree?
– What inspired you to keep going when thesis research got bumpy?
– Thoughts on taking a gap year?

The Process and the Program

  • What’s the process like?
    • Pre-application: For my program, I was required to submit a graduate application with my undergraduate transcript and letters of recommendation. I applied a week before classes started. For other programs, you’ll definitely need to plan as several graduate programs require you to apply a semester before classes even start and might require other documents. Make sure to do your research!
    • Credits: Once you get accepted, the English Program requires that students take 9-12 credits or 3-4 courses before they apply for thesis credits. You’ll need a total of 36 credit hours with 6 of those hours being dedicated to thesis. Most of us opted for 2-3 classes a semester as 4 classes, along with our respective jobs and responsibilities, could prove challenging.
    • Thesis: For those who aren’t aware, a thesis is pretty much a final research project, often in the form of a 45-65 page essay. You can choose to go the traditional thesis writing route or the creative thesis route. I chose the latter. Here’s a snippet I stole from my university’s website:
    • Students who follow the traditional option are those who desire to increase their mastery of a given content area and might be contemplating doctoral work in the future. Students who select the creative option might be preparing to teach creative writing in the schools, to work as editors and publishers, or will be writing for personal accomplishment. (“Admission Requirements“)

    • Whatever you choose will have its own challenges, so choose a path that’s interesting and sustainable for you. The best part about your thesis is that it’s yours. While you get to choose what you want to write about, however, your thesis should still showcase the knowledge you accumulated in your courses, which can include a strong command of language and firm understanding and application of theory.
  • Why did you decide to go to UOG?
    • Everyone thinks of cost when choosing a school. Well, almost everyone. I remember going for a drive with two friends of mine. One of them was complaining about how he had spent over $70k for his degree in business and how his job was only paying him a little more than minimum wage. At this time, I also only had a B.A. and was about to pull out loans for my M.A. while only having a part time job.
    • My other friend, who doesn’t have her degree and who was also likely tired of listening to us complain said, “I don’t even have my degree and I’m still making more than both of you.”
    • That’s when I realized I didn’t want to drop $70k+ on a big, fancy school mistakenly thinking my inevitable success would be tied to its name. I knew I could receive just as good of an education at UOG. I already knew the professors, knew that I wanted to study indigenous and pacific Literature, and knew I could accomplish all I wanted with paying a fraction of the price.
  • In what cases is it beneficial to go straight for a PhD instead of a masters? and/or vice versa?
    • I wish I could answer this, but I can’t as I have no experience with it. I can, however, table this for a later post where I interview my professors or other graduate students.
  • Expectations vs Reality? Undergrad vs. Grad? Workload?
    • Expectation: The classes will be 10x harder. I’ll hate my life.
    • Reality: When I was taking course work, I was submitting 1-3 essays a week and reading 200+ pages of text along with it. The beginning of the semester usually starts slow, but once it hits midterms it felt like the rest of the semester was me trying to catch up. The rigor and expectation is definitely heightened, but I also had the freedom to choose what classes I wanted to take.  Because my program is relatively small, the professors are really accommodating with students. They always ask for our input and what classes we would like to take next semester. I was actually super interested in what I was learning. So while it was 10x harder, it was far more enjoyable than undergrad. 
    • Expectation: I wouldn’t have time to do anything other than school.
    • Reality: I had a part-time writing job, TA’d for my division, joined an outside league for basketball, and still hung out with friends. I just had to plan, prioritize, and recognize when I needed to buckle down and write that paper.
    • Expectation: I’ll finally have my life together and have it all figured out.
    • Reality: I don’t.
    • Expectation: I’ll be broke.
    • Reality: I mean, I’m nowhere where I want to be financially but I had more opportunities presented to me in graduate school. Because I narrowed my area of focus, it was easier for me to find the right place to network and the right people to work with.
  • In what ways did this program nurture and limit your growth as a writer?
    • Great question! I’ll save this for Part II. 😉
  • Professor interaction compared to undergrad?
    • Very good in my program! Some classes are hybrid, meaning it’s a mix of undergraduate students and graduate students (usually 1-2 other grads). In grad-only classes, the typical size is about 5 students, so not only did I form a close relationship with my professors, I also created a much needed bond with my cohort.

The Thesis Process:

  • How do you choose a thesis topic? 
    • Professors often advise students to have a potential thesis topic or area of interest in mind before they even enter the program. A lot of professors are very accommodating and will allow their students to tailor one or more essay assignments to their class and the student’s thesis. For instance, in my SciFi class, I drafted a story with the same theories I used in my thesis (post-colonialism and ecofeminism). What I learned from this essay was a valuable contribution to my actual thesis. So the sooner you know what you’re interested in, the better!
    • I learned, too, that the best way to choose a topic is to find something interesting AND important to me. Then interrogate the hell out of it.
      • Interesting: Mythology, Folklore
      • Important: My culture, my creative writing, valuable ways to create art, uplift voices from marginalized communities
      • My questions: How do Filipino myths shape the perception of women in the Philippines? How do they reflect the treatment of the environment? How can myths be adapted to reflect current times while also remaining a mirror of history/herstory? How can this be valuable and to what communities?
      • Theories: Eco-feminism, Post-colonialism, Abjection
  • What is the process of completing a thesis?
    • Before I decided to write my thesis, I first had to register for thesis credits. Before I registered for thesis credits, I first had to find an advisor or thesis chair (I’ll get into this more in another question).
    • Once I chose my advisor, I chose my committee (usually two to three other professors or scholars) to help me along in this journey. They didn’t need to be experts in my topic, although that certainly helps, but I chose them because they could offer valuable insight to my project.
    • Next, I spent roughly 6 credit hours dedicated to reading, researching, organizing and drafting my manuscript, which is now nearing 67 pages.
    • You can break up your 6 credits any way you want. Some only take 1 thesis credit a semester, others take 3-4. It’s up to you. For some areas of study, your final project might not even be in the form of a long essay. Some colleges have an oral exam. Be aware of your options!
  • Best places for sources?
    • I found a lot of valuable sources on JSTOR, but since my topic deals with indigenous narratives I had to move past the white-men-mostly databases and seek permission to access articles from universities in the Philippines. I also checked the bibliographies of the articles that related to my topic and tried to find the ones of interest to me. If it was a book, I often checked The Project Gutenberg for free texts. Otherwise, I just got really good at wording research topics and tacking ‘scholarly article’ at the end of the google search bar.
    • Before you pay for access to certain sources, check to see if your library or thesis chair is part of an affiliate program where they can retrieve articles from other universities for free. You’d be surprised how many expensive texts and articles I was able to gain access to for free.
  • How did you know who you wanted to work with? (e.g. thesis chair)
    • Before I chose my thesis chair, I had to think about the kind of student I was and the type of professors I needed. I knew I needed structure and too much freedom would be debilitating to my productivity. I also knew I wanted to work with someone who was knowledgeable about the theories I wanted to apply, but who was also open to learning about my own thesis topic and balanced that structure with freedom.
    • So I chose an awesome chair who required me to write up a 10 page proposal and have a working list of references before I even started writing. It. Sucked. But I needed it. This proposal helped me refine my topic in many ways. She also required me to create realistic deadlines and made sure I stuck to them.
    • Some professors won’t require a proposal or will give you all the freedom you need and some students thrive with this method. They have their own methods of structure and organization that, sadly, I lack. So choosing the right person to chair your thesis will be heavily informed by how aware you are of your own study and writing habits and how well you know your professors professor-ing habits (?? idk either).
  • For your thesis, would you consider doing that with other culture’s stories?
    • One of the purposes of my thesis is to illustrate one of the many ways indigenous writers can use creative writing to heal colonial wounds and rebuild their own identities unencumbered by the negative stigmas attached to their respective cultures and beliefs. My project seeks to carve a space, specifically, for Filipino narratives to converse with the wide array of stories already told in the corpus of western academia, young adult literature, and mythology. It’s so specific to my home that my hope wouldn’t be to tell the stories of other nations and cultures, but to hopefully encourage indigenous writers to tell their own stories in their own ways.

My Personal Journey and advice to you:

  • Fav moments?
    • My favorite moments all revolve around my cohort. There’s no specific moment, but there’s the specific feelings of struggling and despairing, doubting yourself and what you’re writing but ultimately pushing through and doing it with a supportive group of friends who are all going through the same thing. Sometimes we’d be so stress that our only response was to laugh like psychos over very real fears like what if we don’t finish in time or what if we can’t find a job after?
    • & to me, those are my favorite moments because they taught me that even in the midst of all this underlying fear and palpable stress, that we could still find the energy to laugh and have a good time. Those moments really convinced me that no matter what happens, it’ll all be okay.
  • Fav thing you’ve read?
    • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
    • I read it in my EN680: Seminar in Contemporary Critical Theory class and wrote an essay applying my knowledge of environmental stylistics. I hated this paper so much that my love for it was inevitable.
  • Is it worth it? 
    • I’m always weary of answering this question: Is it worth it? It depends on what your goals are and what you make of your degree. I know everyone hates that answer, but it’s the most truthful one I have. I do think my degree was and is worth it because I learned so much about myself and my area of study. BUT I KNOW! We want to know about job opportunities. See the next question.
  • Does your future career choice require a masters? 
    • No. I would like to work in a publishing house, specifically in adult literature, or become a self-sustaining author. Both of which do not require a master’s degree but it does help in whatever profession I do choose to go into and it does entail a pay increase, soooooo.
    • Yes. I would also like to work as a librarian, which does require a master’s degree in Library Science.
  • What can you do with your degree?
    • Other careers I could pursue with my degree: Marketing, Advertisement, Public Relations, Freelance Writing, Media and Journalism, Law (e.g. paralegal, lawyer), Copyediting, Technical Writing, Teaching, etc.
    • You can basically do anything with an English degree if you’re driven enough to apply what you’ve learned and know the value and application of cross-disciplinary skills–– of which English has many. The most common and most valuable for almost all job markets are a strong command of language, exceptional writing, and strong communication skills.
  • What inspired you to keep going when thesis research got bumpy?
    • I didn’t want to be a little cry baby bitch. I thought about how many people would kill to be in my position, people who don’t have access to education, and who don’t have a supportive group of family and friends–– all people who deserve the right to an education. So I didn’t and don’t want to waste such a blessing. CORNY, I know, but that’s my honest answer.
    • When I first began this specific journey, I wanted to make my parents proud. As I near the end, I’ve come to realize that it’s just as important to make myself proud, which is arguably a lot harder.
  • Thoughts on taking a gap year?
    • I think for some people, it’s a great idea! I know fellow graduates who took a gap year, travelled, taught in other countries, accumulated “real world” experience and came back refreshed and even more ready for the school year. They dominated their course work.
    • In contrast, some people would rather just get straight into it, i.e. me. I was afraid that if I took a gap year, I would lose the motivation to go back to school. So, again, it depends on the person.

I’m all written out. Thank you for reading and I hope some of what I’ve shared has been useful in some way. Maybe it even convinced you to say, “Fuck a master’s degree!” To which I reply, “Do you, boo.” I don’t think a master’s degree is necessary (for the most part!) to be “successful” but I do believe knowledge and education are always an investment and you are worthy of that.

Some questions I’ll be covering in Part II:

  • How to deal with full time and school! Mix of online and in person classes? Gives and takes. 
  • In what ways did this program nurture and limit your growth as a writer?
  • What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned?
  • My tips for optimizing your reading and writing time

 

 

 

 

 

The Vain Pursuit of Unrealized Truths

The Vain Pursuit of an Unrealized Truths
An Exegesis of “Eyes of a Blue Dog” by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

“Like all dreamers I confuse disenchantment with truth.”
Jean Paul Sartre

“Necessity has the face of a dog.”[1]
Gabriel García Márquez

[Please Note: I wrote this when I was an undergrad. I am now a graduate student and my current sentiments are as follows: FUCK FREUD]

When the sun dips and the world outside cools down, it is time to sleep. For many, this is a simple ritual. They rest their heads on their pillows. They close their eyes and suddenly they are flying, reliving distorted childhood memories, or traveling the various avenues that their dreams take them. Then when they wake in the morning, they think nothing more of it. Hidden beneath the depths of the mundane façade of these landscapes and events lies a deeper, more profound truth of who these sleepers are– what they crave, what they fear. What are dreams if not windows to the subconscious? In The Uncanny[2], Sigmund Freud writes that “the meaning of our dreams usually remains obscure, the reason is that at night we are visited by desires that we are ashamed of and must conceal from ourselves, that have for this very reason been repressed, pushed into the unconscious.” This idea sets the stage for longing and desolation to manifest in “Eyes of a Blue Dog”[3] a short story by Gabriel García Márquez in which the narrator meets the perfect woman in his dreams each night. They gather in the shadows of a cold world of solitude that provides solace because they share it together. Yet, there lies danger in the man’s suppression and idealization of the object of his desire.

Dreams forgo logic in favor of depicting one’s most raw self. So what is the narrator longing for without end? It is clear that he recognizes his meetings with the woman as something that has been ongoing on for years. Some nights he can feel the sheets fall from him, magnifying the cold, and in others he wakes to the sound of a spoon falling. This may emphasize the intensity and ceaselessness of his yearning but does not reveal it. Consider Freud’s interpretation of dreams: “A jocular saying has it that ‘love is a longing for home‘, and if someone dreams of a certain place or a certain landscape and, while dreaming, thinks to himself, ‘I know this place, I’ve been here before’, this place can be interpreted as representing his mother’s genitals or her womb.”[4] We can view the woman as a being of comfort, of home, of care and love that is often associated with a mother. The narrator longs for the feelings associated with whom he first desired in this world. It is a comforting sentiment knowing you are not alone, but the solitude of these two beings–whether fictitious of not– is only heightened in this illusory world. It serves as a stark contrast to the yearning and passion that lay between a lonely man and woman. Everything they wish for is within proximity, but they still cannot have it. Perhaps this is why the woman is characterized as being “oily, slipper,” an object that could easily slip through his grasp the moment he tries to latch on to her (Márquez 433). She is present in his dream because she is absent in his reality.

In Being and Nothingness[5], Jean-Paul Sartre touches upon the relationship between lovers. He writes: “While I attempt to free myself from the hold of the Other, the Other is trying to free himself from mine; while I seek to enslave the Other, the Other seeks to enslave me” (Sartre 475). He goes on further to note that to know someone is to own them. In his dream, the man and woman own one another. He wishes to dominate her and to be the center of this woman’s world. In his dreams, he is. Márquez writes: “Her life had been dedicated to finding me in reality, though that identifying phrase: “Eyes of a blue dog.” And she went along the street saying it aloud, as a way of telling the only person who could have understood her” (434). The woman even reveals her nakedness to him.[6] In this dream world, his cravings are realized, and to a small extent, met. Sartre also expands on this possession as being something that travels beyond the physical. He claims that “if Love were in fact a pure desire for the physical possession, it could in many cases be easily satisfied” (Sartre 478). The characters’ encounters are far from “easy.” They are in the midst of their deepest wants, but cannot attain them. The narrator is seeking something deeper than touch. He craves connection. Moreover, not only does he desire a partner in his solitude he also desires possession. The narrator claims, “I’ve always wanted to see you like that, with the skin of your belly full of deep pits, as if you’ve been beaten” (Márquez 434). The bruises serve as a sign of her submission to a stronger power, himself.

These observations all lead to yet another question: Is the woman imagined? Is she a tangible and active participant of the “real” world? Several instances indicate that this woman is merely a figment of his imagination. Why can she remember the contents of the dream and he cannot? She is a reoccurring participant of his fragmented dreamscape is fully cognizant of who is sleeping outside of the room they share and what is down the hallway from their tiny space. For her, he is the Other. Despite the dream being an object of his own construction, he is the intruder in the world that she is a part of. While the narrator remains cold due to the sheets falling off in his sleep, the woman can warm herself over the flames of the lamp in the room. That is, he is subject to the happenings of the outside, while she only exists and experiences what is in the room– in the dream. In addition, the lamp shared between them is almost a border stopping him from crossing into the world she lives in. While he wishes to touch her, he cannot. Rather, “[He] kept on walking with the cigarette and matches in [his] hand, which would not go beyond the lamp” (Márquez 435).

It can further be argued that the woman is even his own subconscious come to him in the form of what he both fears and desires the most. For him, she represents both companionship[7] and loneliness. They are both desolate creatures and when he looks in the mirror he sees himself. Take the following lines from Márquez:

“I thought she was looking at me for the first time. But then, she turned around behind the lamp and I kept feeling her slippery and oily look in back of me, over my shoulder, I understood that it was I who was looking at her for the first time” […] and “I said to her again: ‘I see you.’ And she raised her eyes from the brassiere again. ‘That’s impossible,’ she said. I asked her why. And she, with her eyes quiet and on her brassiere again: ‘Because your face is turned toward the wall.’” (Márquez 433-434)

Even when his gaze is not directly on her, he knows what she is doing: “She had raised her eyes;” and what part of the room she lays: “Sitting in front of the mirror again” (Márquez 433-434). It is as if every movement of hers is his own. Her longing for him is the most extreme version of his own yearning. While she wakes up from each sleep remembering the phrase they use to find one another: “Eyes of a blue dog,” he never fails to forget despite him being the one inventing the phrase for them to use. It becomes apparent that he is the one who truly wishes to find her, but, ironically, is the one who cannot remember the happenings of the dreams when he wakes. Thus, this only affirms the suppression of his longings in the real world. More than that, the woman tells him not to come closer or he’ll ruin the illusion. If he breaks this fantasy of her and of their shared space, he will come face to face with his own unfulfilled desires and his own solitude. If we take the woman to be an extension of his subconscious, the narrator is warning himself against that which would shed light into his deepest fears.

The woman is both a symbol of his loneliness and a balm for it. Yet, his idealization of her is only damaging the ability of his subconscious to reach a resolution. He traps her in his gaze. Sartre writes, “The Other [the narrator] looks at me and as such he holds the secret of my being, he knows what I [the woman] am. Thus, the profound meaning of my being is outside of me” (Sartre 473). Her being is only given value from his view of her. By “her” I am referring to any companion the narrator wishes to find in reality as the woman of his dreams is a representation of the unrealistic expectations he may project onto women in the real world. In this dream, he designs her to be perfect, but in doing so, she is confined to such perfection. By idealizing her, he offers no room for improvement. It stunts her growth and in a deeper sense, their potential growth as a couple. Were he to actualize this desire in the outside of his subconscious, the manifestations of his unrealistic expectations would only disappoint him once he comes face to face with the inevitable flaws of reality. Thus, suppressing his desires, failing to bring them into the light–– into the real world where they can be resolved–– the narrator only fuels his solitude, only heightens his cold. His fears and desolation must first be recognized before his desires can be actualized. Only when the narrator meets his repressed feelings of solitude and desire for companionship can he go beyond the lamp, warm himself from the cold, and truly wake up.

Notes

[1] This quote is the English equivalent of the Spanish proverb “la necesidad tiene cara de hereje,” which translates to “the need has the face of a heretic.”

[2] Freud, Sigmund. The Uncanny (Penguin Modern Classics) (Kindle Locations 1534-1536) Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

[3] Márquez, Gabriel. “Eyes of a Blue Dog.” The Art of the Tale: An International Anthology of Short Stories, edited by Daniel Halpern, Penguin, 1986, pp. 433-437

[5]Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. Washington Square, 1993.

[6] In The Uncanny, Freud explains this nakedness as the desire for truth. When a dreamer is naked, he/she is in their most raw and honest form. Thus, the narrator desires to know someone when they are their complete, honest self—a form of intimacy deeper than touch.

[7] In the following passages, the idea of “her” can be understood as “companionship” and its derivatives–the longing of it– or the extension of the narrator’s own being rather than the actual woman herself.

Of Love and Other Demons

Demonizing the Hegemonic Culture of 18th Century Colombia
An Exegesis of Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel García Márquez

 “Absence is God. God is the loneliness of man. There was no one but myself; I alone decided on Evil; and I alone invented Good.”

Jean Paul Sartre[i]

“Take care. Sometimes we attribute certain things we do not understand to the demon, not thinking they may be things of God that we do not understand.”

Gabriel García Márquez[ii]

The pursuit of a higher existence following death, one that lacks any form of pain or hardship, sets the tone for the actions carried out by those who adhere to the belief of God and heaven; and even more inspiring than the fruitful promises of Paradise lies the fear of its dreaded counterpart, the devil and hell. While the genesis of such beliefs may start with good intentions–– i.e. to prevent chaos and disorder–– the results are often manifested through fear or ignorance, producing a lack of empathy and hindering moral progression. Thus, what may start out as a means to deter evil, becomes a vehicle for demons to come out from the shadows. Of Love and Other Demons[iii], a novella by Gabriel García Márquez, places itself in the midst of social-transformation that evolves during the decline of the Spanish Inquisition and slavery in colonial Colombia. It is here where evil takes the form of sacred institutions and hides behind individuals comprising the dominant upper class. The effects of this pandemonium are most apparent through Sierva María de Todos los Ángeles[iv], the foundling virgin who is subject to the horrors created by those who present themselves as her saviors. What results from the blind faith inspired by the Inquisition and the persistent oppression of non-Western tradition by the dominant White culture is the gradual degradation of the purest soul in the novella, Sierva María.

To provide context for the points to be argued in the following passages, what directly follows is a brief summary of the novella. One fateful Sunday on a South American seaport of Cartagena, a twelve-year-old Sierva is bitten by a rabid dog. She shows no apparent signs of infection other than a barely visible abrasion. However, perpetuated by her animalistic behavior–– taught to her by Dominga de Adviento, the black slave woman charged with her care and the girl’s practice of the Yoruban beliefs shared with her by the other slaves of her father’s home–– she is believed to be possessed by the devil. When Dominga de Adviento dies, the child becomes the sudden responsibility of a hateful and absent mother, Bernarda Cabrera, and an apathetic father, the Marquis de Casalduero, who, previous to his revelation[v], despised the girl for reminding him of her mother. To avoid responsibility of their unloved heir, Sierva is abandoned to the Convent of Santa Clara where she meets Josefa Miranda, the bitter Abbess and Father Cayentano Delaura, the priest entrusted to carry out her exorcism. Yet, rather than removing the demons believed to be devastating her soul, Delaura falls hopelessly in love with the tragic creature and his actions incite a divide between his desires and his duties. What results from these events is the death, or arguably the murder, of Sierva María through the rituals of exorcism.

The most pressing question of the novella persists throughout the text: Is Sierva María really possessed? To answer this, we must first indicate the symptoms often associated with possession. According to scholar Michael Grosso:

The possessed person behaves in ways that are totally alien to his usual self. He (or more probably she) blasphemes and acts out violent loathing of the conventional sacred symbols; is, moreover, tormented by physical contact with them; demoniacs recoil in pain from holy water sprinkled on them […] The moral otherness of demoniacs looks like an invasion from without; to view it as “merely” a revelation of something repressed within is no less uncanny […] Another symptom of possession is said to be the preternatural strength displayed by demoniacs. (510)[vi]

In the novella, Sierva shows little to no aversion to sacred symbols and does not scream or yell obscenities when Delaura sprinkles holy water in her cell. Any signs of preternatural strength are presented only as rumors spread by others rather than actual events narrated by Márquez. Following her arrival in the convent the persistent destruction of the edifice and the odd behavior of the farm animals surrounding it supports the assumption that “nothing occurred that was not attributed to the pernicious influence of Sierva María. Several novices declared in the acta that she flew on transparent wings that emitted a strange humming” (Márquez 69). To further emphasize the ability for these scandals to manifest in the community, Márquez also writes, “The fiction that Cayetano Delaura was the Bishop’s son had replaced the older rumor that they had been lovers ever since Salmanca” (138). He utilizes qualifying diction such as “novices declared,” “they said,” “rumor,” and “the fiction” to show that these tales are the creation of humans rather than the devil. Meanwhile, the physical and psychological signs of Sierva’s possession are a result of the harsh treatment done unto her by her exorcisers or, as they claim to be, “healers.” Márquez writes: “Sierva María felt as if she were dying […] after two fruitless weeks she had a fiery ulcer on her ankle, her body was scalded by mustard plasters and blistering poultices and the skin on her stomach was raw” (51). Along with these physical ailments, Sierva experiences delusions, convulsions, and loses control of her bladder and bowel movements, but such symptoms are the effects of others’ treatment of her.

Animalistic behavior, moreover, is often associated with demons. This is the sole trait displayed most by Sierva. The young girl is prone to biting and to ferocious tendencies. When the priest first encounters Sierva she “look[s] at Delaura for the first time, weigh[s] and measure[s] him, and attack[s] with the well-aimed pounce of a hunted animal” (Márquez 85). She is described as being “a viper,” “a tiger,” and “snapping at the air like a dog” (Márquez 64+). Sierva’s behavior, however, is more so a result of her parents’ abandonment and her lack of formal education and social grooming. Her behavior is akin to that of an animal because she is raised with the “primitive” characteristics of slaves who were treated like beasts by the Whites. In regards to animalism, Julia Kristeva writes in “Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection,” that “the abject confronts us, on the one hand, with those fragile states where man strays on the territories of animal. Thus, by way of abjection, primitive societies have marked out a precise area of their culture in order to remove it from the threatening world of animals or animalism, which were imagined as representatives of sex and murder” (12-13). This attitude is prevalent in Cartagena as the upper class continues to treat slaves like property, Other Blacks, and characterize African rituals and beliefs as savage, animalistic. The Marquise only perpetuates these stigmas when he tries to undo the teachings the slaves teach Sierva. He “tried to teach her to be a real white […] to suppress her fondness for pickled iguana and armadillo stew,” (Márquez 47) exposing his belief in a wrong culture and a right one. Sierva is thus Othered and oppressed by the onslaught of the dominant Western culture.

Despite the perpetual demonization of the slaves, Marquez’s text argues that the real villains are the colonizers. In fact, it is the “savages” who take in Sierva and treat her with kindness. They teach the foundling their traditions and beliefs. Sierva would often be found in the servants’ courtyard “helping to skin rabbits, and her face was painted black, her feet were bare, and her head wrapped in the red turban used by slave women,” (Márquez 16) and when she relived herself she would  “urinate behind the tree, squatting and holding a stick at the ready to defend herself against abusive animals and predatory men, just as Dominga de Adviento had taught her to do” (Márquez 64). She is the antithesis of her aristocratic family and adopts her own “lower-class” identity. Márquez writes, “‘The only thing white about that child is her color,’ her mother [Bernarda] would say. This was so true that the girl changed her name to an African name of her own invention: María Mandinga” (45). It is because she is so similar in behavior to the despised Blacks but white with ethereal, coppery hair– qualities favored by the West– that she often confounds those around her. She is what Kristeva would describe as being “repulsive and fascinating, abject” (158) and her juxtaposing behaviors and looks “disturbs identity, system, order” (4). She is the living product of two cultures integrated into one being; and society’s exclusion of her and of their non-Western counterparts, illustrate the failure of the Spaniards and Christians to adapt to cultural evolution. In simple terms, it is not the act of the devil, but the West’s persistence in hegemonizing­­­­­ South America that demonizes Sierva María, or more precisely, that demonizes the lower class and culture.

Ironically, the most prominent face of evil in the novella wears the mask of Josefa Miranda, the Abbess of the convent in Santa Clara. She is a woman fully governed under the pretense of “faith” and duty and lacks any indication or desire for truth and reason. When she leads Delaura to Sierva María’s cell and exclaims that the wall is covered in blood, Delaura admonishes her for being so rash in her declaration. He claims that “just because the water was red, that did not mean it had to be blood, and even if it were, that did not mean it had to be diabolical” (Márquez 82). This indicates the impulsive inclination those blinded by faith possess to believe the worst in matters that they do not fully understand. The insidious nature of religion is further emphasized when Abrenuncio, a well educated doctor claims, “‘There is not much difference between that and the witchcraft of blacks […] In fact, it is even worse because the blacks only sacrifice roosters to their gods, while the Holy Office is happy to break innocents on the rack or burn them alive in a public spectacle’” (Márquez 72). The nuns of the convent view the girl with curiosity and wonder rather than disdain. In fact, “the presence inside the convent walls of a girl possessed by demons had all the excitement of an extraordinary adventure” (Márquez 70). The nuns break into Sierva María’s cell and plead with her to speak to the devil and intercede on their behalf–– asking her to illicit impossible favors from the very entity they vow to despise. This further highlights that the pretense of religion and faith are merely the masks of corrupt sacred establishments. Delaura and Abrenuncio, both well-read scholars, and the Abbess, a cloistered nun dependent on the teachings of the Church, represent the divide between religion and science, but even deeper, the divide between women and men. The Abbess and “all women of her day were forbidden any kind of formal education, yet from the time she was very young she had learned scholastic argumentation in her family of distinguished theologians and great heretics” (Márquez 82). The Abbess is a product of the institution that raised her. Allegorically, this contrast reflects the period of the Spanish Inquisition, the coming of the Enlightenment, and the damaging effects of a patriarchal society.

Evil does not lie only in sacred institutions as the face of the teachings of a debauched society is also visible in Sierva María’s mother. No one is as repulsed by the girl nor wishes her demise more than Bernarda. She is incapable of loving her own daughter and is apathetic in all aspects of life irrelevant to her. When Sierva María is first bitten by the dog, the primary concern of her mother is that the reputation of their family would be tarnished. And again, when the Marquis  explains to her that their daughter has been left at the convent, she cries; we are first moved to see the first indication of her love only to be disillusioned by her next words: “‘You mean that now our shame is public knowledge” (Márquez 108). Yet, like the Abbess, she is a product of her time and society. The degradation of her soul had been enacted far before Sierva María’s birth. She had been whored to the Marquise, through the will of her father, and ordered trap him into marriage through means of impregnation. The Marquis, himself, had desired Bernarda only for the physical pleasures of her body, rejecting her when she first came to him with child and only submitting to an official union when his life is threatened by her father. Thus, the societal view of her as the submissive gender reduces her to merely a body easily distributed and discarded by men. To add to the evolution of her sour character is the death of the only love of her life, Judas Iscariote, a black man who perishes in a fight against three other slaves. She laments, “‘I would have been capable of hacking them [runaway slaves] to pieces with a machete. And not only them but you and the girl and my skinflint of a father, and everyone else who turned my life to shit” (Márquez 141). While Bernarda victimizes Sierva María and abandons her to an ill fate, in the end of the novella, we see that she, too, is a victim of her place in life and is haunted by demons of her own.

Although Sierva shows signs of aggressiveness, aversion to society, and ferocity, she possesses no evil entities within. Rather, the real demons lie without. They hide behind the mask of the Abbess and the executors of the Spanish Inquisition. They lurk in the corridors of apathetic parents, slave-traders and colonizers. They prey on those who oppress others in order to maintain their high position in the hierarchy of corruption. More than anything else, they are creatures of humanity that create their own demise. Of Love and Other Demons is Marquez’s critique of society and religion and the corrupt individuals that the teachings of both have brought forth. While not wholly representing every devout Christian or all Spaniards of the 18th century, Márquez does opens the cracks of a system built atop decaying foundations. By adhering to the strict and limiting orders of hegemonized institutions that fail to integrate themselves into a diversifying world, his characters fail to transcend the boundaries of their oppressive society and such attitudes often lead to demonizing and destroying the most innocent of souls.

Notes

[i] Jean-Paul Sartre, “The Devil and the Good Lord,” in The Worlds of Existentialism: A Critical Reader, ed. Maurice Friedman (New York: Humanity Books, 1999), 248.

[ii] Gabriel García Márque Márquez, Of Love and Other Demons, (New York: Vintage International, 1995), 80.

[iii] Gabriel García Márquez, Of Love and Other Demons. New York: Vintage International, 1995.

[iv] According to Márquez, Sierva Maria is based on a corpse he had come across while transferring unclaimed crypts in the convent of the Clarissan nuns to a common grave. There, he came across the decayed body of Sierva María de Todos los Ángeles with a long flow of coppery hair that belied her deceased corpse. He claims that this reminded him of the story his grandmother told of a twelve-year-old Marquise with long, fiery hair that preformed miracles.

[v] When arguing with Bernarda about the state of their daughter’s health, the Marquise comes to the realization that he truly does love Sierva and from that point on works to rectify his mistreatment of her.

[vi] Michael Grosso. “Possession & Exorcism: Understanding the Human Psyche in Chaos\The Devil Within: Possession and Exorcism in the Christian West,” Journal of Scientific Exploration 28, no. 3 (2014): 509-17.

 

 

Inevitable Lessons of Being A Sad Girl

Life is crazy. No surprise there.
It’s unpredictable.
It’s hectic.
It’s all types of fucked up and all kinds of beautiful.

Most of all, it always moves forward. Luckily for me, much of the momentum that pushed me through this past year and a half had comprised of bouts of sadness so deep, it scared me. It felt inescapable and unmanageable. With my graduation date quickly approaching, I constantly worried about the future: where I would be, what I would do afterwards, where I would work, and mostly how I would pay for myself once I became independent? How could I make something of myself if I was too afraid to take the risk of following my passion for writing? I was stressed and sad and angry that I didn’t have the answers so all I did was remain stagnant in my position. And because of that I felt I had no purpose. I was pushing against a rock I couldn’t move.

Without going into too much detail, much of the depression that I experienced was also a product of internal issues (self-confidence, stress, anxiety, uncertainty, etc.) along with a few other moving and unpleasant events that were outside of my control, but manageable had I simply approached the situation better (failed and strained relationships with friends, family, and lovers). I had harbored and nurtured these problems with negativity and worry and this reflected in my work ethic, my social circles, and my daily interactions with other people. I was easy to anger, to irritate. I pulled away from many people, and procrastinated at every opportunity. Most damaging of all, I convinced myself that I deserved to feel this way– to hate myself for having no “real” excuse for being sad, but still being so anyway.

But I look back at those dark moments in time, even with the happy days in mind, and cannot think of anything I could be more grateful for. I mean that with the utmost sincerity.

You may be wondering why I would be praising something many would consider a misfortune. Why would I be happy to have been sad? I realize that may seem odd and perhaps offensive to some who have been clinically diagnosed with depression or mental illness. That is not my intention at all. But it is because of that deep depression that I have come to learn more about growth and happiness, and most importantly, myself.

Now, I am not a guru of life. I don’t have all the secrets of the world nor do I wish to. These lessons I’ve learned have not automatically brought me to a realm of absolute happiness. But I have learned that “happiness” as a perpetual state of being is not possible, nor should it be. I don’t say this because I am a pessimist, but because I’ve come to understand that the goal of life isn’t about finding absolute bliss for the rest of our days.
It’s about living.
And to be alive is to know pain and hardship and heartbreak and love and laughter and moments of joy so profound it’s impossible not to believe in something greater. It’s about trying to understand world and coming to terms with the fact that we never truly will. To be alive is to live in a paradox.

This leads me to

Lesson One:  Let go of the need for happiness. 
I read a quote once and though I am unable to relay it verbatim, it went along these lines: If you forbid yourself to be sad because there are others who suffer more, then you cannot allow yourself to be happy because there are many who are happier than you.

I spent many months being upset– mostly at myself.There was so much guilt whenever I felt sad or angry, because every night I took a step back and thought to myself: What do I really have to be sad about when I have supportive family and friends, food on the table, shelter over my head, and a stable education? If I started to feel sad I’d instantly beat myself up for looking at the world so negatively. I forced myself to be positive and would get upset when I couldn’t be. How could I when I would constantly meet and interact with people who suffered more tangible worries than I could even imagine?

But I had to learn that feeling completely out of sorts with the world and with myself is an inevitable part of living. Feeling guilty for natural, valid, and uncontrollable emotions is unproductive and unreasonable.

IT’S OKAY TO BE SAD SOMETIMES.

To be in a spectrum of emotion is to be whole. No matter my economic circumstance, my personal situation, my work or school life– be it in a terrible state or a great one– I learned that it’s okay to feel. To live. It was time to stop being so hard on myself for being human.

Lesson Two: Only I am responsible.
My parents, my friends, and my environment have all shaped me. Yet my mold isn’t merely governed by these outside forces. It’s subject to internal movement: my thoughts, my goals, my emotions. Every inch of my mind. The world I live in and how I choose to perceive it is up to me and whatever comes of that is my responsibility.

I worry about what’s to come constantly. I have no idea what will become of my life in ten years or five or even two weeks. What if someone I love dies? What if something comes around and completely throws me off my path and sets me back? What if I can’t get a job after I graduate? This anxiety only fueled what had already been a chaotic mind.

What I had to understand is that outside forces beyond my control will always be there, but to place blame on the state of my life on anyone other than myself is to disregard my ability to rebuild myself and grow from hardship. If someone pushed me down and I stay there, that is my full and conscious decision. Instead of blaming the world for placing a rock in my path, I learned to break down that rock into fragments so fine it would be unrecognizable. Weather it down with water and knead it until it became clay. Then mold that obstacle into whatever I chose. Because only I am responsible for it.

Lesson Three: It’s all about balance.
I remember a time where the playgrounds I once frequented had thin metal beams that I would walk with precarious steps. And I remember the time my friends had dared me to run across the beam without falling down.

I failed.

That experience taught me two things.

1. Balance is crucial.
2. I have to walk before I can run.

This past year I had to relearn these lessons. I reached my capacity for stress, but continued to add things that only pushed me even further past my limit. I overloaded on classes, work, and extracurricular activities and let my work pile up. And when I would silently crumble under the pressure, I’d beat myself up for not being able to handle the stress. I expected so much from myself for no other reason than I wanted to be better and I wanted that now. But rather than benefit me, it only weakened my resolve. I placed my goals on the foreground and pushed my mental health in the background not knowing that there was space for both in the front. Here I was walking on a metaphorical beam of life, holding a feather in my left hand with a ton of bricks weighing down on my right. How could I have possibly stayed balanced?

What I learned from falling too far over the edge is that I didn’t have to carry a huge weight on my shoulder in order to make something of myself. Most of all, I didn’t need to do any of that now. I was trying to fly through the stages of life, but I had no idea what I was rushing for. Maybe I had been in a silent competition with those my age who already seemed to have it all figured out. Whatever the reason, I have come to determination that when I reach my goals, I will go into them with a clear and balanced mind.

Much of what I’ve presented so far may seem preachy coming from a young adult who still has so much left to experience. I have no idea if I’ll come back to this and find that all I’ve written contradicts what I will learn in the following years. Or maybe I won’t.

I don’t really know and that’s okay.
I can’t unpack the entire world in only 21 years.
And you know what?

That’s okay too.

Growing Older, But Not That Much Wiser (?)

You know what I hate about growing older?

Constantly being asked what I want to do in life and what my plans are for the future. And I realize that this is a question that’s been asked to us since we could walk, talk, and perceive what the world could offer, so really, what’s the big deal? The difference is that now we are no longer kids and our answer to this question really matters.

In school we’re taught the basics of achieving our dreams. But what about finding them? Of knowing what we want to do in life? Are those not essential as well? Why is there no class teaching us how to find our passion in life? The simple and real answer is because this isn’t something you can teach. There’s no formula to finding passion. And isn’t that a bitch?

This feeling isn’t something new to me. Actually, I’ve struggled with it for quite some time now. Last year when I was attending The University of North Texas, I saw a guy holding a sign that read: “Sit down and tell me WHY you’re Stressed”

Now, these types of things are particularly exciting to me. I’m not sure if it’s simply because I admire people who reach out to complete strangers or because I’ve watched enough cheesy movies to know that every protagonist undergoes some life changing epiphany after five minutes of conversation with a complete stranger– usually a homeless person. But to be honest, the only thing that I took away from it was this:

“Sit down and tell me WHY you’re Stressed” Dude: What’s stressing you out?
Me (more or less): I have no idea what to do with my life.
Dude: You say that as if every fucking person here knows what they want to do with their lives.
Me: DUDE! You are so right.

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Me and “Sit down and tell me WHY you’re Stressed” dude. (I wish I could get an actual name for you. :/ )
So yes. The guy had a point. How many 20 something-year-olds do you know have their life together?  Yet, despite this revelation I couldn’t help but feel completely… average. How could I take comfort in knowing I’m just like everyone else? I questioned why this was hitting me so hard. So I dug even deeper. I utilized my resources (Google) and learned that there were many people who didn’t reach “success” until later on in life. Ray Kroc was 52 when he bought McDonald’s and turned it into a billion dollar franchise. Vera Wang didn’t start her career as a fashion designer until the age of 40. Henry Ford didn’t create the Model T car until he was 45. There are tons of stories just like these– stories of people who truly embody the saying that “good things come to those who wait.”

After reading these stories, I asked myself if I felt better about my current position. My answer? Hell no. I still feel completely lost and stressed about what’s to come. Furthermore, I don’t want to wait till I’m 40 or 50. 

But you know what I did learn from all this? That it’s okay to feel this way because it’s just a natural stage in life. Why does it have to be? Who gaht damn knows? But I also know that when you’re lost, you’re bound to find something that others haven’t found before.

I know. That’s probably not the cliche answer you were hoping for. I apologize if you came to this post hoping to come out with some life-shattering realization, but alas! I, too, am still trying to get my shit together.

So, here’s to life, here’s to being 20, and here’s to hoping it’ll start to make some sense sometime soon.

Follow Your Passion, Not Your Paycheck: Reasons Why You Should Ignore the Haters

Just a few months ago, I had the great fortune of being called in for jury duty. I basically sat in a cramped room with a hundred other people who didn’t want to be there either and were likely trying to think of a good reason to be excused. I know what you’re thinking, and yes– it was every bit as exciting and fun as you’d think it’d be. The entire waiting room was filled with people and, because the jury commissioner asked us to put our phones away while we waited for the judge to call us in, we passed the time by talking to those sitting next to us and bonding over our mutual hate for jury duty.

It was during this time that I shared a conversation with the man sitting next to me. We had talked about various things, but, most notably, bowling, bees, and existential crises at the age of 20.

He had asked me, “So you’re in school. What are you studying?” To which I replied, “Literature.” And, not to my surprise, he continued by saying, “Ah! So you want to be a teacher.” Being well rehearsed in this response, I kindly said, “No, not a teacher.” He scoffed, and then said, “I mean, what else can you be? A librarian?”

IMG_2371
Be very quiet and still! Here we have a literature major in her natural habitat. Be careful not to make any sudden noise or movement because she’ll probably be too invested in her book to even really notice you.

Now, I’m sure he meant this to be funny instead of offensive, but I realized that this is a common occurrence among those who choose to major in the humanities. In fact, I was more surprised that I wasn’t surprised by his response because I’ve grown so used to it. There seems to be this notion that the only job you can get by majoring in English, philosophy, communication, social science, or the various other humanity degrees is teaching. Many assume that it’s a “waste of tuition money.” You know what’s a waste of money? Paying for printing in the library.

But here’s some valuable insight you can share to all those people who tell you that your degree in the humanities lacks marketable skills.

Take writing for example. Writing is invaluable and will continue to be relevant and necessary in every field. More than that, good writing isn’t something you can achieve by inputting a formula in a calculator and waiting for a computer to prepare the message you want to convey. It comes with years of practice– of learning how to analyze, think critically, read well, and develop ideas. It requires forethought and knowledge, of words and their meanings, of cultural and historical context. You have to consider the audience you are writing for. You have to learn how to blend words and sentences together with coherence and unity in order to make it interesting enough for people to want to read. There are so many factors to be considered.

Some may assume that writing is irrelevant with video blogs coming out and print journalism going out of style, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. Most of the knowledge learned and spread today is due to written works. Politicians, business owners, universities, nearly every industry you can think requires a written component in their field in order to function, and even more, prosper. Writing well, reading well, and critical thinking are all skills that are emphasized in a humanity degree and are components needed to accurately articulate thoughts and ideas.

In addition to that, humanities majors are taught to extend past the barriers of their own nations. With the expansion of businesses and the continued interactions between countries and cultures, we need people who approach situations with a global perspective. Communication majors, linguists, and those familiar with social science and intercultural studies can offer insight for more productive interactions between political leaders, business owners, and a plethora of other careers that prosper from understanding the social climates of various places around the world.

By learning the various customs, traditions, beliefs, and languages of other places, humanities students learn how to appropriately interact with those outside of their own corner of the world. They look at the world with broad lenses that allow them to view society as more than what they find within the confines of their respective locations. This is especially useful in today’s day and age and will continue to be so due to constant intercommunication among nations and their leaders.

And you know what else? The influx of business and stem majors means there’s going to be a need for the humanities in the future. The pendulum always swings back.

Now, you might say, “Via, look at the statistics.”

I’ll be honest and say I have searched up statistics, and all I see are numbers that mean nothing to me. The “unimpressive income of humanities majors” isn’t the reason I chose to major in literature. I chose it because this is what I love. I firmly believe that it is not our choices, but our reaction to our decisions that make us who we are and lead us to where we need to be, and it is because of that, that that data is irrelevant. Those who’ve contributed to those unappealing statistics don’t have to be me, and they don’t have to be you either. Don’t conform to the statistics. Defy them! Where would humans be if they didn’t seek to challenge the odds?

Sure. You can learn how to master Excel in a matter of weeks and read books and watch YouTube videos on the statistics of profit and loss. You can buy Rosetta Stone and learn French, Chinese, or German.  But critical thinking, effective communication, and problem solving are skills honed by the humanities. They are at the core of the knowledge that we seek to achieve and these skill sets are not a “waste of money.” They come with time and constant practice and if you aren’t taught to employ them correctly, then you’re not really getting anywhere.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t me saying that the humanities are better than any other major out there. Just because I am speaking on behalf of those who have a passion for such studies doesn’t mean I wish to dissuade you from your dream of owning a business, or being an engineer, a math professor, politician, or whatever your heart desires. What I hope to leave you with is the message of value in all knowledge and learning. Nowadays you can’t approach something with one skill. It’s all interdisciplinary

We all need each other.

So the next time you hear jokes about humanity majors wasting time, effort, and money, laugh. Laugh hard and long. Not at the wisecrack of whatever that ignorant person said about your humanity degree, but at the sheer absurdity that there are actually people in the world who correlate the value of knowledge with monetary gain. Because if you’re so worried about money and luxury, then maybe you shouldn’t major in the humanities. Hell, don’t major in anything for that matter. Every field requires a risk and taking chances isn’t for the faint of heart. If you’re afraid of the how uncertain the future is with a degree in the humanities, you won’t find security in any other major. We’re all finding our way and we’re all learning as we go. So we might as well do it with a passion.

The Best Way to Procrastinate

This is long overdue. I’ve actually had this idea for quite a while. But in true Via fashion, I procrastinated on this article. Now we can spend hours making a list on why I put things off for the last minute, but rather than go into detail about that, let me share something I found online (while I was procrastinating). According to the article “Why We Procrastinate” written by Hara Estroff Marano from Psychology Today, procrastinators can fall into these categories:

There’s more than one flavor of procrastination. People procrastinate for different reasons. Dr. Ferrari identifies three basic types of procrastinators:

  • Arousal types, or thrill-seekers, who wait to the last minute for the euphoric rush.
  • Avoiders, who may be avoiding fear of failure or even fear of success, but in either case are very concerned with what others think of them; they would rather have others think they lack effort than ability
  • Decisional procrastinators, who cannot make a decision. Not making a decision absolves procrastinators of responsibility for the outcome of events.

Now if you’re an overachiever like me, you fall into all of these. At this point, I’ve just accepted this as a facet of my personality. I know. Really healthy. However, despite this, I’ve still found ways to work with it
*Pause*
Now before I get into my tips, because of the oversensitivity of the internet I feel I should put in a little disclaimer here: I am in no way trying to advocate for procrastination. But if you must, let me help you do it the best way I know how.
*Play*

Post daily reminders
Let’s say you have a big project, essay, or assignment coming up– if you’re exceptionally unfortunate, all three will be due in the same week. The first thing to do is write it down in a planner, on a post-it, or in your phone. Set an alarm a day before it’s due. Wherever it may be, the important thing is to not forget.

Do a little at time
Nothing is more detrimental to productivity than the mental strain of a heavy workload. The larger a task is, the less we want to do it. By doing a little at a time the burden is minimized until eventually it’s completely gone. This is also known as the Zeigarnik Effect.
*A little spoiler alert though– you’re never truly done with work. Welcome to adulthood.*

For example, if I’m writing a 10 page essay, I commit to a plan.
Monday:  Create the outline
Tuesday: Write the Intro and half of the body
Wednesday: Finish it off and write the conclusion
Thursday: Revise
Friday: Edit

Alternatively Change the setting and binge work
If it can’t be done at home or in the library, switch it up. A different environment is usually the push needed. During these times, I opt for a cafe, plug in my earphones, and just work until I’ve completed everything. When I’m on a roll, I don’t stop because I never know when I’m going to get the motivation to do the task again. And finding the motivation is the hardest part.

Do the hard stuff first
Let’s take a trip back to memory lane when we had to take the SAT or ACT. I know we’ve all tried hard to block out those memories, but bear with me for a moment. Remember when the proctor informed us that it would be in our best interest to do the easy questions first and then go back to the hard ones? Well, don’t do that here. I actually find it easier to do the hard ones first so that the easy ones seem more pleasant to do. It’s like… being forced to eat a bag of rotten eggs and then given a bag of black licorice. Both terrible, but compared to expired eggs, black licorice taste like heaven.

Clean your closet
Well if you’re not going to do your homework, might as well do something productive so it at least feels like you’re not a total waste of space. There’s also a Via Science behind this. I find that when I do something useful like clean or work out, I start to feel really good. Basically, the more productive I am the more I wish to be so. Therefore, I carry that energy I accumulated from finishing little tasks and use it to accomplish a bigger one.

Throw away perfection

Leave perfection at the door. Remember, you don’t have to shit out the best paper in one sitting. In fact, the best ones we usually shit out after the third or fourth sitting. Maybe even past the tenth if you’re striving for excellence. The most important thing is to do it. All the revising and editing will come later.

Those are some tips I have! I would write more, but I’m using this article to procrastinate on my an exegesis for my English class. If you guys would like to share your thoughts or comments, feel free to leave a comment below!
Happy procrastinating!