Monday, September 17, 2007

When mantras aren't enough

My biggest beef with college, at least in my experience, was its inability to mirror real life. As pertains to high school, this was a secondary complaint, with an utter lack of preparation for rigorous college work being the primary concern.

Leaving aside that I've always felt that real life fails to live up to my expectations (and I don't mean that in terms of acquiring money, fame, success or power), grad school has been a bit more practical, challenging and applicable, but still lacks the serious push I seek in order to prove my mettle. It occurs to me that school is by no means the paradigm in which to test myself. In this regard, two of my fellow fellows/housemates are very interesting to me. Generally, I like them all quite a bit, and I’m amused to see that the intensity of relationship development brought about by living together can be replicated in much the same way that college fosters rapid relationship development. Of course, it’s generally superficial at the moment, but still, interesting.

So these two housemates of mine. One is my age, and very focused on meditating, being centered, finding balance, taking care of herself and overcoming her ego. The other is a bit younger guy, and very Dmitri Karamazov, if that means anything to anyone. He’s reading one of my favorite books, The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell, and he’s really concerned with pushing himself to his limits to find out what he’s made of. I may or may not be pleased with being here and working on this fellowship, but I am certain that these two have much to teach me.

I’ve been adrift of late with respect to my life’s mission and goals. I feel very untethered and lame. I want to push myself, but not too hard. I want to be balanced and feel complete, but not at the expense of my current lifestyle. But it’s my lifestyle, and my approach to self-preservation, that prevents me from really understanding what I want, what other people mean when they talk to me, whether I have anything to offer the world, and how to overcome being motivated by fear and potential loss. And how to escape the bitter need for security that I believe my unstable upbringing fomented in me. I hate being a slave to it, yet much of what I do is in service to it.

A part of me thinks I’m too old to be worried about this. Maybe I shouldn’t be so convinced of my flaws, and instead seek self-acceptance. Thus far, I’ve always employed the “work in progress” metaphor, which is simply a way of ensuring that my all-consuming procrastination problem spreads through every element of my sense of self.

I hope to change that. I know from experience that it is very hard to change. I also know that I have been relying on external forces to change me, instead of myself. It’s possible that I don’t have what it takes to change, but I believe that understanding the level of personal effort that it takes to truly change, and knowing that I’ve not tried very hard at all in that realm, is (as G.I. Joe always said) half the battle.

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