Before I moved here and started grad school, I felt that I had no idea what this life would be like. I know just what it's like to go to an office job every day, and I think the tenor of that life is similar across different jobs. But being in school full time - especially doing nothing but school, as I'm doing now - is a different thing. What would it be like not having as much income? A more variable schedule? A choice of where to work most of the time?
Well, I know what it's like now, I guess. In some ways, it's surprising how much I feel the same, like the same person as I was before. I know that couldn't surprise anyone else about me - of course I'm the same Tam! - but it feels surprising inside somehow.
One observation is that my current life feels much simpler than my old life. Every day, M-F, I walk to school, do stuff, and then walk back home. I almost never drive anywhere during the week, and on the weekends I usually only make one or two trips, for groceries and maybe to go eat somewhere or something. As a result, I don't see as many different things as I used to. My world has contracted a bit physically.
5 times a week, usually at lunch, I eat at a dining hall here, usually the same one. The food is different every day, but the experience is very similar. I used to eat out almost every weekday for lunch, at all different places, so this is another simplification. I go to this place and I eat whatever they have there. The rest of my meals I eat at home, and they are also not greatly varied.
At work, I used to interact (for work purposes) with a bunch of different people, and my assignments were varied, numerous, and overlapping. I'm doing more work now than I was then, yet it is given by fewer people and is less varied while at the same time also being far less routine. And everything has very clear deadlines, which wasn't the case when I was working.
It feels like in general, my life is more tightly circumscribed than before. And I pretty much like it.
For the most part, I don't find myself struggling as much as usual with motivation. Having clear deadlines and more difficult, interesting work makes it much easier for me to get stuff done. I've been operating in a pretty high gear (for me) since school started. I have found, however, that I will need to kick that up a notch to really do well, because my high gear isn't quite adequate to keep me out of the danger of not getting things finished on time. Work comes due in little clumps, so I have the option of relaxing for a few days and then having a few more stressful days, and I'd like to smooth that curve out a bit more than I've been doing.
But there is no question that this life is more enjoyable in just about every way than working for a living.