Work In Progress…
“Mono-no aware: the ephemeral nature of life – the quietly elated, bittersweet feeling of having been witness to the dazzling circus of life – knowing that none of it can last…” – Wiki
It’s a melancholy appreciation for the transience of life, the love of the fleetingness of a single moment that, once occurring, can never truly happen again. That people grow, change, and as such, nothing is permanent. It’s a word derived from Japanese culture that speaks in large part to the appreciation that nothing last’s forever. Even their buildings and culture are created around the idea that there is something more than a simple structure, that there is a greater spirit that carries on a legacy even after the wood has warped, or the stone has crumbled. When this happens, there will come a day when a “hello” will be the last “hello” and a “goodbye” will be the last “goodbye”.
We all have knowledge of these things, coming to us from bittersweet memories that cling like spiky seed pods to clothing. We face these conflicts and decide what we want to do with them as arise. This state of happy it happened but sad it’s over. It’s so easy to avoid these emotions, to distance ourselves from any given event, to deny the permanence of forward leaping time but the moment will come nonetheless.
There is something beautiful about these ephemeral things. Would clouds be as wonderous if they never changed shape, or snowflake as magnificent if they didn’t melt when landing on your skin? We can appreciate them because we know what it was like before we had them and eventually learn what it’s like when they are gone.
It takes a lot of courage to face these moments head-on, to recognize there will be an end and keep going through the heartache that is likely to come. A beautiful pain built on the temporary, with each person having to decide whether or not it was worth it in the end.
It’s only in accepting these feelings that we grow and change as people. If we try to hold to something long gone our knuckles will turn white by grasping at air and dust. It’s not to forget but appreciate that sometimes some things have to end even if we aren’t ready. It’s death and disappearance, two things we fight so hard against, are inevitable, but in learning to embrace them we glimpse the beautiful bittersweet appreciation of what can happen after.
It was a memory the spurred this conversation with myself. A memory fished from far back in my brain, when coping with the disaster of my life led a realization of myself, a realization that still holds true today
It’s a paradox, rationalized over many years, I have a resistance to people touching me and a yearning to be touched.
I think this became apparent in middle school when I was still a very weird kid – wearing jackets into the heat of California summers. If you asked why a kid would do something like that would probably put on some bravado about being able to withstand the heat. I liked the warmth, the cloth wrapping my body in a gentle embrace, reflecting the heat I generated back at me. In some way, it felt like being held, being saved from the world and all its evils. It was a proxy for touch, a segregate for being hugged, not that I didn’t get attention from my parents but I just became so wrapped up in these walls I built so high that I wanted someone to come in and break them down.
I don’t know what would have changed someone had intervened at that stage but even to this point, you’ll hardly ever see me wearing shorts as they make me feel uncomfortable. I love touch though, at least from the people I feel comfortable enough to touch me. Almost to the point of fetishism, I obsess over it, derive so much meaning out of it, to the point that the meaning becomes so distorted that it doesn’t even resemble the intention behind it.
What does touch feel like to me? Well if done right, it feels like the moment of creation, where everything comes into being and life is born. It feels like a transference of soul and sharing of self. Like spring of sweet serenity that washes over me. It’s so singular and yet so poignant, so particularly focused on the beauty of the moment that lasts forever and yet dissipates so quickly. With these feelings so concentrated on the experience of touch, touches that are unwelcome become equally horrendous to an experience.
I am not saying these things are good, I know they are not but it’s where I am at. With that realization years ago, about the sensitivity of being in my own skin, I found that I needed to change. Acclimate to a space where I don’t place so much emphasis on touch and being touched. I have made progress but have yet to solve the problem.
I am sure in the future I will come much closer to my goal, but for now, I will appreciate that magic touch can bring and use all my strength to make the miraculous ultimately mundane.
A place between sleep and wakefulness, like a walking daydream, nothing seems real enough to shudder me into existence but not outlandish enough to constitute the believability of a dream. Like a forced existence or conscious stasis, I am yearning for something to animate me once again.
It’s a chronic problem, this apathy for the reality that makes me wander off into different places looking for something I can’t find within myself, interest. Sometimes I find it in the strangest places, traveling like Alice down the rabbit hole wondering how far I can go before I wake up.
It’s because of that I consider myself a hobbyist. In the way that I collect hobbies: cooking, baking, folding paper, sewing, drawing, and writing. It’s all seated in the desire to learn new things. It’s the dabbling, understanding just enough to allow me a peek into a different world that I enjoy. The craving of seeing the world slightly differently than before. A strange addiction to expanding my perspective, one that seems at least on the surface never to run out. It keeps me around at least for a little while, before it’s not enough and a fall back into this place.
I think that’s why I also like the stress of deadlines, it feels somewhat more like I am alive. It’s a bad habit to rely on to keep me going, but it works. The stress pushes me to move and keeps me awake long enough to feel conscious again.
To be honest, it always feels as if I just falling through the sky, wind brushing past, but the ground never coming. Like a continual stasis, like I could close my eyes and float forever. I wonder what will wake me from this recurrent waking dream and bring me to life once again. What will keep me grounded, and aware What will bring me back home.
There has been this growing feeling of unease inside me, these past couple months have felt different than all those years before. Something has shifted, aside from the accident and the mourning, it feels like something is missing. This precious fuel source that drove me wild with want and need after all these years seemed to just dissipate after the accident. Like ease or contentment has made me run on empty, slowed down my gears, made it feel like the tin man whose run out of oil, frozen. I had started to believe it was all because of these changes, but I realize there is something more going on.
Like a person in a field told to throw a ball at a target he can’t see, how can you possibly move forward in a meaningful way if you don’t know where you’re going? I realized recently that I’ve spent so much time on the goal of getting into a Ph.D. program that now that I am there, I have felt a bit aimless. I mean other than the small goals I have what else is driving me forward?
I need to reassess where I am and what I am doing. I have other wants and dreams, but they are much less clear to me. Like my desire to become a professor at a university and do research, but what type of university and where? Or how I want my life to look like after these five short and long years.
With no clear direction, how can I shoot for what I want?
I’ve spent time meditating over this, this idea of what I want and need out of life. I asked the world to give me something reflect on, to show me the path and listened. Through my experiences, I was given the answer I was looking for.
First, I listened to a man speak about teaching, with much wonder and zeal. He spoke of giving kids a chance to learn, believing in their ability to become greater than what they initially thought. That resonated with me, gave me a piece of that want I was so looking for.
Second I found myself to words of those around me speaking out about all these opportunities to work beyond the walls of research and educations. The ability to have rhythm and rhyme set by a schedule every day of the week. These words tied knots in my stomach making me realize that a least, for now, it was not for me.
Lastly, I found myself talking so pleasantly with others about all these questions we still have left in the world, and I become excited and energized about the possibility of answering them. Finding those truths that will enlighten those who need them has always been the thing that empowers me most.
In the end, I did not come away with a clear goal but at least an idea of what I want.
I want to work in academia, researching people and technology. I want to get the chance to teach the next generation and give my passion for the subject to all those who listen. I want to be able to live life flexibly, throwing myself into my project with no time or place needed to contain me.
I wrote smaller goals to myself in place I will always be reminded, knowing full well things will change as time goes on, but for now I have a direction. A target. A place that all the world wants me to go.
Its one of those – be careful what you wish for – moments. Where you look back and wonder why your thoughts something would be easier than what it actually is. All signs pointed to me being wrong, but how could I not be blinded by the excitement of learning something new.
I have an anecdote that I end up repeating when explaining what I do and why I sometimes miss the mark in conversations. It comes from an observation made when I spend too long in my in the weeds of my profession. My world appears to shift, and the things that would be generally seen as abnormal or esoteric become humdrum. It’s like I live existing in a bubble, causing me to care about only was seems to be relevant to that bubble and nothing else.
I didn’t say it was a good thing, it’s merely what happens.
But when talking to other people, outside of work and my field, I can finally see how far I’ve strayed. It’s a career that requires me to understand both inside and outside of the bubble but in word and in practice are different.
So why bother telling you this, what was it that I wasn’t prepared for? Well, my new program has been dishing heapings of humility. Showing me how much I don’t know about other fields and how tunneled I’ve gotten within own. It’s a good thing, having wanted to experience different things and have a chance at exploring new areas. It’s hard, though, stepping outside of what I know and being a beginner again. It’ was something I was envious of others for, those who had learned one thing and did another. It’s a different perspective on life and work.
I don’t know exactly how this new knowledge will help me, but I find solitude in Steve Job’s old story about learning calligraphy. Noting that as long as we are learning and making the most of the lessons, we can never know when you can bring something unexpected and new to the equation. It doesn’t make it not hurt less but it at least it keeps me on the path, one where I can’t see around the end to the next corner but ultimately knows it will end with achieving my dreams.
Just as a digression before I begin. A few years ago (when I was going through the Ph.D. interview process for the first time) there was a prospect of me moving to Dallas to attend school. Though this opportunity didn’t end up bearing fruit there was a beautiful thought of being able to name a series of blog posts – The Golden Body in The Lone Star State – which other than being descriptive of both where I’ve been (growing up in California, and it being the Golden State) and where I was going (Texas is the Lone Star State) would have been a catchy title for process of moving away from home and being in a lonely state of mind. Though reality ultimately it turned out for the better I did hope that wherever state I ended up in had a nice nickname to make a catch title. Low and behold I went to the one place in the United States that doesn’t have a state nickname… because it’s not a state at all, Washington D.C. Maybe it was the world’s way of telling me that I need to try a bit harder on the naming scheme, but as it stands now, I’m Stateless.
I’ve been here for almost a month now, trying to find a home in a new place. Transforming these open spaces into homelike traces wanting so much to find where I belong.
All new things take time, the question is how much time should I take. It’s easy of course when you have a place you’ve established, it’s easy when the reality is that you are only so far away. Everything is so new, and so different but walks around with the false facsimile of something familiar. You know, it’s a lot of effort to have the chance to find where I could possible stand. It has caused me to lay awake at night, unable to find a comfortable place to lay my head, yearning so much for what I’ve known. There is no break from that reality for me, I am here, and they are there. With thousands of miles of land between us, there is no illusion like there is with the sea, that you might just be there on the other side of the waves. Though we can edge that distance, the truth is that you or I can’t cross it completely.
It’s trying to find that place that is comfortable, which is hard for someone who at times doesn’t even like his own skin. It was easier last time, I had a group of people that I was thrust into on an extremely regular basis, a community already established, and a community of many who wanted to connect just as much as I. Joined by as shared vision brought on by this beautifully temporary space, connecting not only in dream but in heart.
I didn’t need to prove anything to them, I came in with a much-warranted humility that I need to start from scratch. Start building up from where I was, though experiences not learned. I think my two years have given me a slight complex about wanting to show I’ve learned, to prove that I know, and to know that I am respected. Respect takes time, it’s not handed out like candy but built like cake. Layer by layer. It’s partially because I’m scared that I use this knowledge to defend myself, to make it seem like I am competent and confident when in reality, I don’t know what the next step it. I’m shaking inside, retreating into my head, thankfully I’ve made friends there since last time, so it isn’t too detrimental.
It’s lonesome, though. I thrive when I am known, and here nobody knows me. I can’t say it’s all that bad, people are friendly here, living their lives to the fullest. Going from place to place with a mission and purpose, and all I’m trying to do is find where I fit in all this. Of course, if I would stop thinking and just do, then I would eliminate most of my troubles. If I were to reach out, and make reality what I want it to be, then I wouldn’t have this problem. I need not regress to this shy person I was before, the one who didn’t know up from down and didn’t understand anyone including himself. Maybe it’s premature for all this talk now, but it’s hard not to the I’ve awake at night wondering where everyone else in the world is.
It’s a bit troubling, but I have to be resilient to myself. Now is the perfect time to become who I want to be and stand firm who I have been. It’s that belief in myself that I need to renew and learn to power forward. If I am true to myself, then people will naturally gather. There will be some bumps on the road, but this is an excellent chance to reaffirm what I know and grow even more.
I can’t say it’s been easy, but who really want life to be easy. It’s too dull that way anyways.
…it’s happening again. The constant call of conflicting events has been keeping me from sitting down to write. It’s a matter of settling. Setting in a new place with new people while also trying to keep strong the threads connecting me to the people I have known. I wouldn’t say it’s easy, something new to me. The maintenance of the past and the cultivation of the future are effortful endeavors edifying the path forward.
But it’s not enough; I want more silence, more noise, more time. It is doing a disservice to myself and this form to not allow the time to write. I want to reaffirm my dedication to writing in the next coming weeks, but I need time and the discipline to do so. So in the next couple weeks, I might be posting a bit shorter posts, but this is a pledge to write and fill these pixels with prose that I can be proud of.
I want the writing to move me as well as you until then I need to spend time to figure out what that means.
Until the next time, Good Night and Good Luck
Another delay because of schedule but i hope to address that in tomorrows post.
“The clouds are beautiful,” I think to myself looking up at that soft blue sky outside my window. The moment though is brief as my brain can only resist the urge to work for so long before the guilt sets in. It’s sad to me that no matter what I do, I never capture these serene scenes for long enough. My mind prevents loitering on anything for too long, wanting to move on or delve deeper, so the appreciation of a moment is only that, a moment before I find myself moving my personal perpetual motion machine once again.
If it isn’t apparent at this point, I will state it plainly – I am terrible at resting – lingering only long enough for my brain to process and move on to the next thing. I even tested last night with now avail, listening to some soft music in the darkness of my room only to find I was restless. Even with nothing to do but stare at the ceiling, my brain won’t just stop. Instead though the desire to try and put a pause on my mind, I end up being filled with the meta-thought, “I just need to relax now.” That’s why sometimes I appreciate those things that make me lose myself for a moment. Those events or objects that have an incredible implicit draw to them that I can’t help but be swayed by their influence. The ones where I lose hours without realizing. Maybe what I need is someone to bash me over the head every so often to let me sit still for a while. Even then though I am sure, I would feel guilty after waking up.
After my accident, I made friends with the thoughts, working in tandem towards a speedy recovery. The thing is, if you thought I was talkative, you should hear my brain. It prattles on nonstop about everything. It keeps me on task, and remembering all the details but even when I am supposed to stop thinking it keeps going. Maybe that’s just me and how I am built, but it makes me wonder if that is at all healthy. It can’t be good for it to keep running all day nonstop. Though I am sure it has the stamina of a marathon runner at this point, it doesn’t change the fact that it shouldn’t be running marathons all day.
Either way, soon I will be thrown into the thick of it again, working day and night for my dream. With all this work, I hope I have enough time to stop and rest so that I may not become burnt out from all this effort. Sometimes I wish that my brain would take a break, not for me, but for itself.