In-between thoughts: WHY DID NONE OF YOU TELL ME ABOUT BUTTERMILK

Thoughts between sets at the gym.

It’s starting to be a theme. A couple weeks off from the gym, one or two sessions, then a couple weeks off. What can I say, I take rest and recovery VERY VERY seriously. But I’m here, I’m lifting, and I’m looking forward to being VERY VERY sore the next few days.

Nothing like a good gym locker room selfie.

Onto gym thoughts…

I was listening to Hidden Brain, best podcast of all time (and I’m not going to let you finish) and found myself inspired by something said by, of all people, Matthew McConaughey.

I know. I KNOW. I hear myself, too. But it was seriously so good.

I was primed for the McConaughey Wisdom Bomb because as is probably to be expected, I have been feeling very overwhelmed. Starting my PhD program has been equal parts satisfying and terrifying. And even though I have every requirement planned and scheduled on my Google spreadsheet so I know what I need to get done every semester, the prospect of actually making it through to the dang PhD has, at times, felt absolutely overwhelmingly impossible.

I have been too focused on the ultimate goal, on the Big Goal and have let that overwhelm my day-to-day. So I was primed for wisdom from an unexpected place. The podcast played a clip from a graduation speech he had given, saying he used to be focused on the Big Goals (recognition, getting awards, making a blockbuster movie) and was a ball of stress because of it. With that mindset, and with the attending mental stress, he never produced his best work. It wasn’t until he focused simply on doing the best he could each day, in whatever scene he was in, with whatever lines he had to give that day, that he found not just the success he dreamed of but he found happiness. Contentment. Satisfaction.

That idea resonated deeply with me and since listening to the podcast I’ve been trying to take that into every situation where I have a Big Goal looming. I’ve been looking at each assignment in each class as an opportunity to learn something awesome. This big presentation on Kant’s transcendental deduction of the pure form of understanding? Instead of thinking of how I want to get the approval of the professor and the respect of my peers (Big Goals) and instead of thinking of how this idea could fit into my eventual dissertation (another Big Goal), I reframe it as something valuable in its own right. I get the opportunity to become a mini expert on this foundational bit of the history of Western philosophy! How freaking awesome is that?? I get to learn something difficult and make it familiar and easy (easier, anyway). It’s amazing how much happier I am being in this degree program when I stop focusing on the degree itself and the totality of the steps it takes to get there (and the Big Goals that shouldn’t really be my Big Goals — does it really matter what my classmates think of me?), and instead focus on doing my best with each of the tasks it takes to get there. Also, to focus on finding the enjoyment available in each. Each step along the way has value and joy in its own right (it’s all part of the philosophy I love) and I want to enjoy it as much as I can. You know, so I don’t have a breakdown. Struggling with mental health is very common in graduate school.

Well, that whole thing only got me halfway through my workout. Other random thoughts:

I am starting Christmas shopping already and have had such fun planning books to give people! I love giving presents anyway, but I have read several awesome books this past year and I am super stoked to share the awesomeness. Can Christmas come early?! Or twice?

I’m so, so excited for fall. It’s been HOT here, and all I want is to be able to wear a sweater without sweating. Or just to not sweat while I sit.

I made the best roast chicken of my life this week and am still swooning. I marinated a whole chicken in 2 cups of buttermilk with 2 Tbs dissolved sea salt for 24 hours, stuffed the cavity with rosemary, roasted at 425 for 20 minutes, then turned down the temp to 400 and roasted for 40-50 more, turning the pan once in the oven (total time depends on the size of the bird). I thought I would die from deliciousness. Where has buttermilk been my whole life?! What other delights have I missed out on?!?! WHAT ELSE ARE YOU ALL KEEPING FROM ME

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