Photo by Elena Haskins
Today, with only four months until graduation, I received a message from my college saying that my academic standing is in peril. After dropping three classes during the fall semester, I found myself 14 credits short of an eligible academic year making for a heavy course load my last semester. Senior-itis is a luxury I cannot afford.
While slacking off in my classes, I learned how to program a responsive website using server side code. The managing editor of the Ithaca Times was impressed with my work and on Thursday, I secured my first freelancing gig with the local paper. In a demented silver lining, sacrificing my academics seems to have afforded me a promising career in media production.
To get to a place where I can be confident in my skills as a content-creator, I forced myself through a ghoulish hell in the fall, sacrificing my academic, mental and social well-being in the process. Not to mention playing fast and loose with scholarship money and my parents’ investment in my college career.
By November, my routine was grotesque: I consistently went 48 hours without sleep to program the IC Chronicle website. The entire time, I locked myself in my room to furiously pound away at my keyboard, leaving only to attend the three classes that remained in my schedule.
At the end of this cycle of no sleep, I would break down in a frenzy, talking to myself, light-headed from lack of nourishment, warding off persistent voices, and unyielding paranoia. My brain arrested me until the next afternoon when I had class or, if it was the weekend, I would sleep for an uninterrupted 36 hours.
What kept me in this ongoing cycle? I knew I was suffering. What possessed me to attend to these self-imposed tasks? Hard work and dedication is one thing, but this was pathological.
You see, journalism was an awakening for me, the discovery of a colorful world I was happy to participate in. With no genuine convictions to give me a sense of purpose, I had a diminished sense of identity before I started reporting.
So, when I heard IC Chronicle‘s web layout was something of a laughing stock for its unprofessional look, with obvious water marks from a free WordPress theme, I took it as character assassination. Those very voices induced by sleeplessness were projections by a pathological sense of inadequacy, like personal demons I spawned from otherwise constructive criticism.
In our most creative, passionate endeavors, the ones that give life the most meaning, we make a damning error in collapsing our projects with our selves. We must be careful to dissociate our personal self-hoods from our passions—a task easier said than done.
But at the same time, weren’t the most astounding works throughout history, whether technical or artistic, executed by people driven to madness by their craft?
I have learned it’s a balancing act, minding the fine line between passion and pathology.