Satisfied

October 25, 2015 at 3:37 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I love the rain, especially in the fall. The way it sounds falling on the roof. The smell in the air. It’s important to remember the things you love when life gets crazy.

When I haven’t been doing grad work I’ve been listening to Hamilton (a new musical) basically nonstop for the past two weeks. It’s incredible. You should check it out. One of the big themes in the show is this idea of Hamilton never being satisfied – he has to keep going nonstop all the time. His ambition allows him to attain dizzying heights, but it also leads to his political downfall and eventual death in a duel against Aaron Burr. I think that theme, though, dissatisfaction, affects all of us in various ways. We all have things about ourselves or our lives that we’re unhappy with, and we deal with it in a multitude of ways. I want to lose weight, I want to get better grades, I want a partner, if I only had x or y I would be finally happy, etc. Sometimes we drink to forget, sometimes we distract ourselves, sometimes we take action and change ourselves. Sometimes the things we want to be different are things that we can work on fixing. In those circumstances it’s important to take it day by day. Everyone (myself included) seems to feel that everything is a race across a finish line – if I do this one thing, I will finally be happy. I will finally be satisfied. It’s important to look at our goals day by day and moment by moment, though, because life is just one long continuation. It’s just one process. We’re never done. We are constantly “being.” The more we can become OK with that, the happier we will be. You have to be kind to yourself.

For today, though, I am mostly thinking about the things that are not under our control. I’ll say it again – you have to be kind to yourself. No one is perfect. No one has all the answers. Most of us have very few answers. I don’t particularly trust people who tell you they have all the answers (maybe that’s why I can be a bit standoffish toward organized religion as a general concept). Something I try to do is be OK with not knowing. I want to have the answers, but the world is large. Can I be enough, just being me? What if I fail? What if I do something stupid in front of my classmates, my peers, my professors? I know I really want to be liked; to be loved. What if no one does? What if I have all these implicit biases, and I say something hurtful? Can I atone for the mistakes I’ve made? Can I make less in the future? I’ve been mostly single for the past three years, does that say something about me? Can I be satisfied with myself? Can I be satisfied with someone else in my life eventually? Can I stop asking rhetorical questions? Am I wasting my time writing this now instead of working on my paper that’s due tomorrow?

I’m afraid of all those things, but I need to be OK with being afraid. That fear, I believe, is normal. Grad school is supposed to be hard. Your mid-20s are supposed to be a time of transition. As a book I read would say, it is the “defining decade” of your life. It’s about building a foundation of a house that won’t ever be truly finished. It’s the first verse of the song of your life, and you get to play it in real time. Every moment of my life needs to be enough. I need to be able to find satisfaction in my life, and find motivation in my dissatisfaction. Eckhart Tolle says “Accept – then act. Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.” Where would I rather be than right here, right now? I am me because of everything that has happened; me in everything that IS happening. I am luckier than many.

I could be thoughtful. That would be enough.

I could sit here, in this moment. Live here, because this moment is all there is. That would be enough.

I could view myself with kindness. That would be enough.

I could take one step toward my goals. That would be enough.

I could love, even when I’m upset. That would be enough.

I could make a mistake. That would be enough.

I could fail. That would be enough.

I could go confidently in the direction of my dreams. I could go unconfidently in the direction of my dreams. I could stall out for a while and stare at the wall. That would be enough.

I am enough.

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My Shot

October 12, 2015 at 10:52 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , )

I’ve been writing a lot lately. Reading quite a bit too. For better or worse, though, it has all been academic. I definitely feel like I’m finally getting my sea legs back under me in that regard, so to speak – 4+ years out of the classroom requires a bit of getting up to speed. Fortunately school has always been a skill of mine, so it’s all coming back.

I felt it was important for me to take a bit of time here, though, for some self reflection and honesty with myself. Writing has always been therapeutic, and I tend to treat this blog as more of a journal than anything else, so here we go…

Much like the beginning of a football game or a performance, beginning any new project doesn’t really start until you have take that first hit or sing those first couple notes. For me, that happened last week with my first grad school paper. It was 2 pages – nothing massive – but it was my first chance to prove to myself that I was capable of doing the work at this level. It’s one thing to intuitively feel it, but actually getting into the grind is another thing entirely. My first paper happened to go relatively well, but that just means that I need to continue to up the ante and get as much out of this program as I can.

I think sometimes about the idea of building a house. A small error in putting together the foundation can lead to big structural problems 2 or 3 stories up. It’s important to really take advantage of the time I have early to learn the basics (especially in research methodology and economics, where my background is not as strong) so that I can build my skill set in a way that will be effective. I’m trying to get into a routine that allows me to get everything done I need to get done, lets me be as social as I need to be for my mental health, and keeps me at least relatively active. The balancing act is one that definitely can be done, but it requires some thought and a lot of tinkering here and there to really make it work for me.

Speaking of social life, I feel quite grateful that I have met so many interesting, passionate, intelligent, and fun people here in Corvallis and the MPP program. I’m very lucky that my roommates just happen to be great humans as well. Life is always better when you get along with the people you live with. At the same time, though, I do miss many of my friends who are in the Portland metro, flung across the northwest, and beyond. There is a certain sadness inherent in transition, I think, that is neither good or bad. It simply is. As my life changes, there is a bit of melancholy knowing that nothing will be the same. We can’t remain static. I don’t want to be static – I want to learn new things and meet new people, hear the songs that I will sing to my children someday (if I have them), and maybe fall in love and out of love or at least have some interesting stories about dates I went on.

I can’t say that this is exactly what I imagined for myself at 25, but then again, I don’t know if I really imagined anything specific about 25 in the first place. It’s exciting. It’s new. It’s challenging. I’m in uncharted waters. I’m in a place that feels very different from just about anyone I knew before I came here. I’m trying really hard to be here, where I am, in any given moment. I’m trying to be myself in a world that thinks I’m too nice, or too yielding, or too whimsical. I want to change the world. I want to change myself. I want to feel like there is no distinction between those two sentences. I want to have all the answers. That’s actually untrue…I enjoy the mystery. What I really want is more comfort with uncertainty. I want to make my family and friends proud of me. I would like to leave people’s lives a bit brighter than I found them.

Just have to keep heading onward and upward.

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