Motivation Zero

I’m in a quarantine pickle. I can’t find motivation to do anything. Even writing this blog post was a monumental effort and, while I certainly cannot and will not complain about the jobs I still have, I’m having a devil of a time moving myself to produce anything. Even sending one small email takes hours of pump up music, pep talks, and “I’ll have a snack and then be ready.”

Approximately 48,000 snack calories later, I’ve realized a couple things might be happening. First, I’ve been pretty undisciplined in my consumption of social media and I can’t be sure but I think it’s destroying my gray cells at a massive rate. I can’t really focus on anything, a condition I know comes from just the glut of stress and weirdness of COVID times but also is exacerbated by hours of YouTube, even if on in the background.

Second, I’m weathering the change just about as well as anyone, but moving every work activity literally so far away really eats away at any sense of accountability, especially when it coincides with a narrative of “give yourself grace.” I earnestly do that and am trying to be patient as I recognize that 1) I’m struggling to move my class online for a multitude of reasons and 2) I have very little will to do my job that has moved ever-farther away from any purpose I see as useful. On the other hand, I can see and feel that I’m leaning in just a bit too fervently to living with no real structure. For the first month of shelter-at-home, I was blissful as the semblance of some schedule still existed but as time and distance has eroded that significantly, I spend a lot of energy reminding myself what the consequences are for not doing things on time or changing plans halfway through. Not only do I come up empty on a lot of consequences, I also feel like I’m sliding into a new kind of laziness almost—a total lack of thinking any of this is important.

That leads to what is probably my biggest worry about this state of ennui in this time and place—I’m asking “why” on a lot of the old because I’m just not sure it’s all that relevant going forward. Do I have the same interest in doing “good work”? Not really, because I’m not sure what that means in this emerging context of work. This time away from my office and coworkers has highlighted all of the ways my job is unimportant. Being this far from my students and without personal contact has highlighted my need for those things in order to offer my best educator self and the current scenario seems stacked against us going back to that arrangement anytime soon. Maybe this is a great existential reckoning as much as it is a global health reckoning. Maybe one of the few opportunities this time provides is the chance to actively reinvent my purpose…or at least stop ignoring it.

I don’t mind unsettled times. Of course, that’s a statement of privilege but it’s also a lesson of history—unsettled times rarely last forever. They go in waves and are punctuated sometimes by real progress. Let’s hope history allows us to see that’s what this is. But for today, I have to figure out how to move myself to get something done because “or else” just doesn’t have the same sting that it used to.

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