I lay curled up on my yoga mat the other day, trying to meditate. It’s a new activity for me–normally my brain is a jumble, with fast-moving thoughts and fleeting impressions. Trying to calm it down always seemed futile. Before, I could only ever meditate by tricking my mind into focusing on something else intensely, like putting together a jigsaw puzzle or playing a musical instrument, allowing my self-exploratory thoughts to hum forth in parallel to the engaging activity.
But I need to learn how to find a clear mind for myself. My life has gotten mixed up, and I’ve lost my sense of direction. For a while, peace has been utterly impossible.
I set a goal to move to California. I set a goal to go to graduate school. I have achieved both of those goals. There have been some clear things I’ve always wanted, and I’ve managed to claw my way up to them. Along the way, some of my long-term aspirations truly have changed–but others I’ve simply ignored, or tried to replace.
I am not a scientist. At least, I’m not the kind who works in a lab. I’m not neat; I’m not precise. Rules and safety procedures bore me. Math equations, writing everything down–it’s tedious.
The pissing contest of academia makes my eyes roll. I can best describe its culture by making a jerk-off motion with my hand. I love learning, and I love experimenting, but I’m not cut out to do science the “proper way.”
I am not a doctor, and perhaps I’ll never be one. I still like the idea of being a psychiatrist, but mostly because in that role I would be able to use my own expertise and care to help soothe the hurts of others, to bring peace. I want others to feel supported and connected. I want people to understand themselves and their own minds. I want to heal the wounds of society by starting with individuals.
I am a writer.
I hesitate to call myself by titles, because I feel I need to earn them. “Writer” has always been a coveted position for me, the only thing I’ve ever wanted to call myself.
For some reason, whether bred by humility or self-doubt, I’ve often avoided acknowledging my own skill as a writer. Mostly, it’s like “I haven’t written a novel yet, how can I ever call myself a writer?”
But I write. I will always write. I have always written. I “write as I breathe.” I have a portfolio full of published articles, and more pages of personal writing than I could ever even collect in one place.
It is the one thing, above all other things, that I’ve always done without outside prompting. It flows from me joyfully, automatically.
Recently, I’ve been metamorphosing. It hurts. It feels great. It’s bewildering.
I have the luck of being surrounded by the most wonderful people. I live in a beautiful old house with a big magnolia tree in the yard. I see the ocean every day. Wise old redwoods tower over me, always moist and green, smelling like the earth.
And yet, I’ve been flailing. I’ve been lost, confused. I failed a chemistry exam. I’ve gotten terrible grades on each of my genetics exams. I have a paper overdue by three weeks in my Research Methods class. My car is broken and the repairs are too expensive, but I still have to make payments on it. I’ve been working 20+ hours a week in a minimum wage retail job. I switched thesis advisors but I still don’t have a solid topic, and it’s already my second semester.
Most importantly, I haven’t been enjoying my life. I’ve been waking up with a feeling of dread, sinking into hopelessness, and having very bleak thoughts. A few weeks ago I was crying and upset so often that professors took notice–I met with the dean of students to explain my financial situation and emotional issues, and an official email was sent to my professors to grant me leniency in my classwork.
Something had to change. The past couple weeks, after I admitted to everyone how much I needed help, have been a process of assessment, rebuilding, and self-care.
This past week was spring break, an absolutely necessary reprieve from my brutal schedule. When thinking ahead to it, I imagined being productive and working to catch up on things the whole time. Instead, I’ve been relaxing and reflecting–and finding peace.
“Yield–don’t keep pushing against things that won’t move.”
As much as I thought medical school should be my next goal, it seems like every effort towards it has been frustrating and miserable. It was a goal I picked up only last semester, but decided to run with, in light of knowing that I didn’t want to be a laboratory researcher.
While I find the material in my science classes to be interesting, the fuss required to learn and practice it feels unnaturally difficult. Schoolwork always came naturally to me before–effortless. It’s not that I don’t want to do hard work, it’s that I am usually capable of doing hard work and feeling a sense of joyful fulfillment when I do it. I don’t feel that in these classes. It feels like drudgery.
On top of that, the time required for me to succeed in these classes while also working and taking care of my life has made it nearly impossible for me to do the things I LOVE–making art, making photos, making music, writing. Creating, beautifying. Reading books, watching films, seeing art.
I made a motto for myself many years ago: “To pursue and create beauty.”
The other day on the phone, Tim said to me, “Stop getting distracted by all these side-bitches in life. Do what you’ve always wanted to do.”
I lay on my yoga mat and I asked myself what I want. What do I dream about? What do I love?
I get phrases stuck in my head, often. They come from somewhere inside of me–either as the product of a linguistic equation I’ve been silently working out in the background of my mind, or drawn from some collective human unconsciousness that I access in my sleep.
I don’t know what produces them, but they jump up in front of me and I write them down. I try to apply them, to test them against reality and see what meaning they have.
Recently, one phrase was, “mundanity is an illusion.”
It is easy to feel like each day doesn’t matter. It’s easy to feel a sense of routine, a boring gray sense of “grinding away” at things. I think we surrender to this illusion because feeling things can often be intense. If we pay attention to our senses and feelings fully each day, they can reveal truths to us that may conflict with our everyday lives, threatening our senses of security. We don’t want to be confronted with the realization of our own freedom, because it presents us with the opportunity to either make use of our courage and seize it, or to squander it.
“Timshel”–the word that holds the potential of a man’s greatness, if he wishes to make use of it.
We squander our freedom every day under the illusion of mundanity. Wasting our lives is easy if we tell ourselves that today is not important, if we ignore our senses and subscribe to some sort of defined path just for the sake of security. We anesthetize ourselves because we are afraid of our own freedom, our own limitless potential. Making use of our freedom is terrifying, but exhilarating–many people only experience it in discrete episodes of their lives.
A few of my housemates and I have formed a “lucid dreaming” club. It’s pretty informal–mostly we just tend to be outside smoking around the same time of night, so we talk about our dreams and what they mean. I have lucid dreams sometimes, but my one roommate Sasha is basically A DREAMWALKER, and lucid dreams on an advanced level.
“You can do anything,” she said. “Anything you want.”
She related stories about dreams in which she’s flown up above the sky, through the ozone layer into space, and traveled to whatever planets she wished to visit. She’s talked about times she’s approached people in her dreams and asked them anything she felt like having an answer to.
The important part of becoming lucid is to realize that YOU are the dreamer. Everything around you is a product of your mind–so it is malleable. You can create anything, mold anything to be what you want it to be, as soon as you recognize your freedom to do so.
I lay on my yoga mat exploring myself, venturing inside my mind. I chose to lie on my back, my knees drawn into my chest, my arms wrapped around them. In this position, I feel my own potential energy–I am coiled like a spring, waiting to act.
Something strange happened. Suddenly, I became a part of the air around me.
I thought about old philosophers who used to talk about the “ether” to describe the “empty space” around us–they knew it wasn’t empty, but didn’t yet have the scientific knowledge to talk about air molecules or invisible gases.
I felt that I was not an object sitting in empty space–all of my surface area was interfacing with a thick substance all around me. I recognized that this substance was touching everything else, too, by proxy. I melted into the substance and let myself feel submerged in it, dissolved in it. I could feel that distance is an illusion, that everything is connected.
The most hippy-dippy feeling of “oneness with the universe”–and I understand what that means, now.
Albert Einstein said that the most important question for us ask is, “Is this a friendly universe?”
Yes, I believe this is a friendly universe.
And as soon as I chose to believe this, I knew the answers.
The universe has confirmed it to me, has begun clearing a path for me. I am stepping along it lightly, joyfully. My worries are melting away because I trust the universe and by proxy, I trust myself.
The day after I meditated, I walked out of a store and the first thing I saw was someone’s vanity license plate.
It said, “WRITE.”
I guess I’ve known it all along.