October 8, 2010

How to get your groove back

A comprehensive guide to reclaiming your lost mojo

As long as UChicago summers are, the beginning of the school year somehow still manages to creep up unexpectedly. It can be hard to get back into the drill of going to class, getting through 300-page readings, and waking up before noon. Moreover, the process can be demoralizing. It feels as though last year has just been conquered, and yet here we are, back at the start. Most people don’t have a definition for this feeling, so I’m going to try to provide one: It’s called losing your mojo.

When you feel like you just can’t concentrate on Kant, when chem lecture leaves you feeling unbalanced, and when econ problem sets have lost their value, that’s called losing your mojo. Losing your mojo can also loosely be defined as “feeling sorry for yourself” and “wishing it were still summer.” A great way to overcome your inertia is to glean some wisdom from celebrities, millionaires, and other well-known figures who have been through hard times and emerged victorious. I’ll provide a few examples:

Steve Jobs. Before Steve Jobs built the Apple technology empire, he was working on an orchard and experimenting with eating a purely apple diet in the hopes that it would prevent him from needing to bathe. To the best of my knowledge, it didn’t work. Now, Jobs is a gazillionaire. This teaches us that if you want to get your mojo back, you should probably turn your eccentricities into a revolutionary new suite of technological devices that no one realized they couldn’t live without until they found themselves purchasing their sixth iPod after it sustained water damage, and putting it in the oven somehow didn’t help. Not that I did that. You should also take a shower.

Martha Stewart. In 2001, Martha Stewart was named the third most powerful woman in America by Ladies Home Journal. She fell from grace after being convicted for lying to investigators about insider trading in a stock sale and served five months in prison. Despite this seemingly precipitous drop in mojo, Martha managed to make her company profitable again a mere two years after her conviction. How did she do this? Some say it had to do with the line of products she launched for Kmart stores. Others say it had to do her with her guest appearances on The Apprentice. I think it had more to do with attitude. When a CBS anchor grilled her about the case before her conviction on the Early Show, Martha retorted, “I just want to focus on my salad.” (She was ostensibly chopping cabbage during said interrogation.) Rather than dwelling on her mistakes, that is to say, breaking the law and getting caught for it, Martha just focused on that salad, and got her mojo back with a vengeance. So take a lesson from Martha. Can’t concentrate on your classes because of all the run-ins with the law you had over the summer? Maybe you should stop watching Glee reruns and bake some soufflés.

Gandalf the Gray. Not unlike many other public figures who have coped with loss of mojo over the trajectory of their careers, Gandalf the Grey had a near brush with death. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Gandalf was in the process of accompanying Frodo the hobbit and the rest of the Fellowship on their way to Mordor to destroy the One Ring when they had the misfortune to encounter a Balrog from ancient times in the Mines of Moria. Gandalf killed the Balrog, but sacrificed himself in the process. Psych! Actually, he came back to life as a much more powerful figure, Gandalf the White, who always wore white robes instead of gray. There are a couple of lessons we can learn from this. First—if you haven’t read Lord of the Rings, what are you even doing at the University of Chicago? Seriously. Second, if you haven’t washed your clothes in so long that they are all turning gray, you should go to the laundry room. Really. People will start sitting next to you again. Or, you might want to start tacking a title at the end of your name, like “The White.” It sounds so dignified.

So, whatever you’re going through right now, I hope you’re able to work though it. Maybe you’ll end up with a line of Kmart products at the end of the day, too, or at least a set of snazzy new robes. And good luck. It’s arguably impossible to go through an academic year at the University of Chicago with depleted levels of mojo.

Charna Albert is a second-year in the College.