Lessons learned from… Timeline?

Perhaps you’ve had “timeline” on your facebook a long time. I have not and was alerted just this week that I have until August 7 to get my timeline-y affairs in order before it takes over. Thus, when I log on to facebook and go to my profile, it’s already been timeline-d, so I can scroll through my life story (as told by my facebook activity) all the way back to 2007 (February 13, to be exact).

2007 also happens to be the year I Went Back to School, and timeline shows all the minutia and fluff mixed right in with life-changing moments. The result is a big picture that is both true and slightly distorted. As one who feels compelled to document all things, scrolling through my past facebook activity serves as a journal of sorts (a shockingly public one, at that): trips taken, friend who have come and gone (this is a standard narrative in a college town), relationships that have grown, and also… one’s entire academic doctoral career to date. It’s this latter piece that I find somewhat disturbing, encouraging, disheartening, and entertaining.

When I started the PhD, it was so exciting and new. I was still teaching what seemed like 800 piano students and working at the church, TA-ing a new-to-me class, along with taking three or four graduate music courses. And it was, indeed, exciting and new. And wild. And tiring. And frustrating. And exhausting. And exhilarating. I think that 2007, 2008, and 2009 all went by in a bit of a blur because of the furious pace at which I was existing. And I came to equate this pace with Living.

Things (sort of) slowed down, and then comps happened. After that, it seems as though Nothing happened. And because of this Nothing, when I ponder 2011 in my memory, deep down I think of it as a waste: I didn’t DO enough; I wasn’t productive enough; I didn’t make enough academic progress; I didn’t WRITE enough; I wasn’t smart enough; basically, I wasn’t busy enough.

But then I look at Timeline, and I see that I was plenty busy: I had a wreck on my birthday, got to be a part of our worship team’s first live album, went to Chicago and fell in love with the city, made new friends, worked my assistantship, taught piano lessons, got closer to a dissertation topic, saw two dear friends get married and another have a baby, traveled more than ever before, presented at some conferences, and worked on a prospectus.

Even though I know better, I find myself believing a myth that I must always go at that furious pace, that only my academic progress and career matter, and that those are the only things that give meaning to my life. And if/when those things don’t work out exactly as I think they should, then I am a failure. It’s this distorted view tells me that 2011 was a bust, and that maybe 2012 is turning out the same way.

Really, I know better, but sometimes it’s nice to be reminded. Even if it’s facebook and timeline that are doing the reminding.


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