Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Harvard Library Transition Diet

As of this morning, I weighed in at 232 pounds- which means I've now lost more than forty pounds since January 1st.

What's my secret, you ask? The answer is simple: stress.

I tend to be a nervous eater. When I was a high school senior I remember polishing off an entire large tub of Goldfish crackers while waiting to hear back from MIT's Early Admissions. Food has always been my preferred method of self-medication; when I finally learned how to cook, however, it was like giving a junkie his own prescription pad.

Cooking and eating weren't just integral parts of courting my wife, but a way for the two of us to negotiate the existential angst of forsaking our plans to pursue careers in the academy and trying to find our footing in the so-called Real World. Life never seemed so bad when you sat down to a delicious home-cooked meal, or escaped for a weekend road trip with Jane and Michael Stern's Road Food as your guide.

Drawing my comfort from comfort food has always come naturally to me, so as my situation at work became more and more uncertain my diet became progressively worse. Having a sedentary job had already taken its toll on my already-oversized waistline, but three years of "library transition" was adding insult to injury as I relied on food as an escape. Feeling powerless in the office translated into extra indulgence, which of course only served to feed a vicious cycle of negative body image, constant heartburn, and sleep apnea at night.

My inability to get a decent night of shuteye was in turn affecting my attitude at work and made me an irritable zombie in the evenings and on the weekends. Whereas sleep had always come easy for me, I began to regard bedtime with a sense of dread - even worse, I feared falling asleep at the wheel during my early morning Thursday commutes or not being able to stay awake in traffic for the return trip.

Clearly, something had to give. And something did. Oddly enough, I have the Harvard Library Transition to thank for this radical shift to my lifestyle.

For the first time in years I was faced with the simple fact that the status quo would no longer be available to me as an option, and that there was nothing I could say or do to change this. Because of the structural changes taking place at the library, my job is going away. Even if it's true that there's a functionally similar job (albeit University-wide in scope) taking its place, it will be a new position with new responsibilities, a new boss, and a new mandate as our Library Transition proceeds into its implementation phase. Moreover, this is a job for which I would need to apply and interview. Taking no action was no longer an option - like it or not, I was being kicked out of my comfort zone once and for all.

Rather than surrender to my fear of the unknown, I have decided to leverage this necessity for change into an opportunity for transformation across the board. And so my vow to Make It Happen in 2012 was born. If one thing had to change, why not CHANGE ALL THE THINGS? Not just my job but my diet, my writing, my general attitude towards Life, the Universe, and Everything.

This is not meant to be a comment on the Harvard Library Transition or anyone else's personal experience of this tumultuous time as a librarian or library assistant here at the World's Greatest University - my feelings about the former are well known at this point; as for my colleagues, I feel only sympathy and solidarity. For whatever reason, repurposing the ludicrous amount of stress currently in my life as a catalyst for change has worked for me. While I wish everyone could make the same lemonade out of these bitter lemons we've been handed, I understand that everyone's circumstances are different.

We're now in the endgame of this transition, and things are getting weirder and even more stressful than before as my colleagues and I compete with one another for positions in the new organizational structure (like the Hunger Games, only a lot less entertaining). It is my hope that we make it through this awkward situation as soon as possible. Will I still have a job here when all is said and done? I'd like to believe that even if I don't get the position I applied for Harvard would not turn my talents and expertise away, but whatever happens, I am no longer afraid.

Also, I'm several belt notches thinner...


Susan Lieberthal said...

Wow on the weight, you are very disciplined when you make up your mind. I hope it is you who gets the coveted position, you haven't even begun to reach your full potential. Good luck and keep us posted.

Tom said...

Thanks, Susan! I will be sure to let everyone know how it all turns out.

Tom said...

(Fingers crossed!)