Oct 15, 2007

On Personal Ambition and Human Limitations

Those who follow this blog with some regularity know that its author has interests in a wide variety of topics and literary genres, and the posts that appear here reflect to some degree the intellectual pursuits that I undertake.

As much as I enjoy the freedom associated with a blog format, I am also challenged to keep the site fresh and vital. These goals have been compromised by my academic endeavors, especially my roles as a college instructor at a number of area institutions and as a doctoral candidate in history.

To get to the point, I am tired: not in the intellectual sense, but that overwhelming, creeping feeling that you can no longer control the direction you are headed.

One of the problems I face is self-induced, as I have an almost compulsive desire to answer each and every email request or blog comment that hits my inbox. This, of course, is sheer insanity, as on an average day I receive 20-25 electronic messages directly related to this blog, and these numbers are over and above the many messages I have to read and answer from students, colleagues, and employers.

As I peer into the mountain of virtual correspondence so neatly organized for me by Microsoft Outlook, I realize that I will spend the next three hours trying to catch up on all the requests for information, collaborative offers, and pleas for help from people around the world. Most of these will be a simple matter of declining the particular opportunity, yet part of me feels guilty for not being able to help or accommodate the myriad problems that blog visitors seem to think I can fix.

Christ, there are days when I can't even find a matching pair of socks - how the hell can I help someone who is wrongly incarcerated, screwed by the government, or who would like me to write about their missing child? As I write this, my three dogs are barking like hounds treeing a bear, the sink is full of dishes, and my lawn has not been cut in ten days; in some respects I should be the last person to provide advice, save for my occasional ability to string a few nouns and verbs together in unique ways.

And frankly, I'm not even sure why I am writing this post, except to vent my angst and to think out loud. It's not as if I am going to stop blogging, or as though I can suddenly develop a more narrow worldview that will limit my readership to a few dozen friends and acquaintances. I suppose this is both a backhanded apology to those who might feel ignored by my virtual silence and a post to remind myself that it's perfectly acceptable to be normal.

And then I recall the one-legged panhandler I encountered at the Corey Road exit from eastbound I-475 Saturday, a pathetic-looking (and yet oddly proud) man with a knotted-up leg on his greasy blue jeans standing with the help of aluminum crutches in a cold 45-degree wind. My troubles seem decidedly ordinary in comparison with those of this nameless soul, but thanks for indulging me in this moment of self-evaluation and navel-examination.


Anonymous said...

Turn off commenting on your blog so you aren't tempted to respond. Remove the email/contact info. Make it a one-way street, at least for a little while. Renew your spirit.

Anonymous said...

Use your DELETE key and your troubles are over.


historymike said...

Anonymous #1:

Sometimes the answers are too obvious to see. As I looked at my blog, I saw the "Email Me" link at the top, like a beacon to bring more email. When I modify my template, I'm going to take down that link for a while.

And I shall renew my spirit.

historymike said...


I did go through my Outlook inbox and delete everything older than two months, which was about 400 messages.

It was cathartic...

Hooda Thunkit said...

There's still that odd speck of lint, or is it mold, in the corner of your navel ;-)

Try confining blogging (much) to the weekends. It has helped me regenerate, although your life seems to be a bit more involved...

jshriver said...

Life is tough and it's hard to make everyone happy. Sometimes I envy farmers or people who live in the country. I've grew up helping my grandparents on the farm and it is HARD work. But you know, it was peaceful and rewarding.

Society now adays seems to trade physical labor for brain killing stress. At least after working on a farm you can relax and have no mental worries till the next day. No worrying about replying to this or that email, making sure this was done or not. It's so hard just to relax in todays atmosphere.

Take a break. :) I and I'm sure many others enjoy your blog, but I understand.

Mad Jack said...

Make up your mind that there are a certain number of things that just will not get done. Despite this, the world will keep right on spinning.

Here are two things that might help you a little:

1 - Hire a maid service to give your house a once-over. If a formal service doesn't thrill you to death, send me an email and I can recommend an individual who will do a good job and works cheap.

2 - Set yourself up to accomplish one thing and one thing only per day. Mow the yard, fix something, whatever. You'll feel marginally better.

Another thing that will help immeasurably is if you tell me where you live, so that when I hit Toledo again I can sneak over to your house and get the dogs to bark. Trust me, there isn't anything better than getting a someone's dogs barking up a storm and watching that person finally come to the back door to get the dogs to shut up.

Lisa Renee said...

This post points out to me how long it's been since you and I emailed each other Mike, perhaps I need to take some of your advice as well.


mud_rake said...

Write whatever the hell you want to and don't worry about what others think about it.

Shut off the comments permissions. We louts are only taking stabs at reality anyway so why should you give a damn what we say?

Now, back to my blog [he trudges out the door...]