March Towards Matriculation: Seventh March – Numbered Steps

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Numbered days and long nights, I push forward trying to squeeze in what I can into these finite moments before I leave. Things are real now, wanting me to act soon, start to pack away the memory of these two years I’ve accumulated that have manifested themselves into physical objects on my desk.  I don’t know where to start, not because I haven’t moved before but my heart wishes that I could pack up things up so subtly that I don’t even notice the boxes piling up in my room.

I delay, find a distraction, like a child foolheartedly trying to keep their parents from knowing its time for them to go to bed. Time will come eventually and me shying away from this only takes away from the time I could utilize for other things. I keep a careful watch on the time because it seems to be sprinting from me, losing minutes, hours, and even days to the ever-increasing current that is my departure.

I’ve been busy, making my steps count in a way that both tires me out and uplifts me at the same time. I’ve been fortunate in having the opportunity to see those around me with their busy lives take the time to meet with me to send me off with a fond farewell.  It’s hard to try to synthesize all that needs to be said for closure. It feels like when you have your favorite meal in front of you, knowing full well you won’t be eating it for a while,  so bite after bite you try to savor the taste of hoping it sticks with you and fills that craving you might have in the future.

I don’t think it makes me sad to think about these things, it’s more just a reality. I am leaving to grasp the opportunity which I had been working towards for a while. I think what I’m most troubling is that I fear that with me leaving I will be as warm handprint on a cold rainy window, doom to fade into memory until there is nothing left.

Road To Recovery / March Towards Matriculation – Road 8 – Coming And Going

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As my recovery is speeding up, and a sense of normalcy is on the horizon but there is a bit of confusion. I don’t know whether this normalcy is the sunset of my recovery or the sunrise for all that comes after.

You see I have been announcing all week my big news, first that will be attending a PhD program in the fall and second that I am finally able to wear a pair of normal shoes and walk semi-normally. Walking seemed the more pressing event, the one that every morning is a clear reminder of my once lack of ability to do so. That was until today, when I was walking around talking with a friend that it hit me…I’m leaving… In less than half a year I will have relocated to a place about 3,000 miles away from where I have lived my entire life. I knew this feeling would come, and I am sure the simple pang that I felt was only a precursor to what will be a treasure trove of tumult in the coming months. I knew this would come, but I have never felt this way in my whole life.

It was a moment where I wanted to grab whole of the idea of home and take it with me. Take it’s essence and throw on wall in my future room. What is my home to me, what is a representation of what this place means to me? It’s like a child holding on a toy for dear life because they are afraid to lose the memory of having had the toy in the first place. Not enough object permanence to think that it won’t be gone once it’s time to close my eyes and go to bed.

That’s the weird thing about the whole situation, it’s not like I won’t see it again, or that I won’t be back semi-regularly but it’s more of the sentimental. I understand now why people get tattoos that represent where they came from. Like a happy scar to show everyone and yourself what you’ve been through. To represent a people that you belong to. What is that though, is home a mug, or a spoon? A picture on a wall, or a book on the shelf? Is it the way I walk, or an attitude I walk with. I don’t understand at all but I do understand this feeling of wanting to grab it with all my strength and take it as far as I can go.

What this recovery has taught me is that anything can be taken in one rainy night, except memories and the feelings that we have. This slightly strange bump on my ankle is only the physical manifestation of what was. The scar left is just a reminder, but what is most salient is the people in my life that have come with me on my journey and… it sucks because just as I have gotten up to walk it feels like I am going to be leaving this all behind. Like I have finally got back on my feet from nasty fall to have to go charging ahead. The race isn’t over but I will be leaving a place I am comfortable, a place that I know, a place with all of you.

To come back you have to leave, and I will be taking some part of everyone I know as I go. So maybe home will be a picture on a wall, or book on the shelf because they remind me of what was and what is waiting on the other side of the sea. Maybe these scars on my body and metal plate in my leg are just there to remind me of who I am and my identity can’t be taken from me. I may be recovering but it doesn’t mean that things will back to the way they were.

I am a sentimentalist at heart but it’s hard to say how I feel. I will miss it all when I go, but even if I had the power to stop time I wouldn’t. The road may be changing but it doesn’t mean the time I had and have haven’t been worth the ride. There may be things I leave undone, or feeling left unexpressed but I want to make sure everyone knows that these times mean so much to me and thank you all for coming along, willingly or unwillingly. This new direction I am starting was always where I wanted to go. A new adventure to be had and like all things it’s worth while it will take a lot of effort. I think I’ll be okay though because you all have helped me along the way.

To end, I have favorite quote from one of my favorite movies Gattaca. It’s corny, sentimental, and truly how I feel.

For someone who was never meant for this world, I must confess I’m suddenly having a hard time leaving it. Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star. Maybe I’m not leaving… maybe I’m going home.

Vincent – Gattaca

Clench.

I feel tense, my whole body feels as though it is still holding on to stress from this application season.  Most of what I need to do is behind me, but I don’t have the feeling of being complete or relaxed. I am stuck holding everything rigid, like a ghost is still there haunting me.

This feeling is like when I used to ride my motorcycle long distances through traffic.  Though it looks like motorcycles taking it easy and passing between cars it just the opposite, during traffic we are most tense. Going in between cars we have to watch for any little indicator of a potential of trouble that is to say it’s hard being invisible when there thousand pound vehicles that wouldn’t think twice to roll over you. It’s after these especially tense trips that I feel it. I would peel my hands off the handlebars of my bike and no matter what I did it would still feel like I was there, riding between the cars.  

I’m trying to let go, relax and feel alright, but I feel like this will be a process of recovery.  I have been going non-stop since the beginning of summer culminating to these past couple weeks.  My body doesn’t even know what to do now that the stress is technically over.  

Maybe I’ll take it easy, but not likely, I am sure after a couple days that feeling of needing to work will come over me again. I just hope that by the time that comes, I will be okay again.

A Place for Shattered Dreams and Far Off Memories

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It’s a few weeks away now is a deadline which I have been building towards these last two years. I know I’m in a much better place than I was before but I feel vastly unprepared for the applications I must have done in a few short weeks. The applications that will act as a bridge to the place I want to go, the place where my dreams lie.
I am beginning to wonder if that’s on purpose, that my mind keeps me so busy that I have an excuse not to delve deep into the minutia of what could be a pivotal moment in my life.  Maybe that’s why I’m having such a hard time saying no to all these things that come my way. These things that take me away from what I should be doing for myself. It’s easy to make excuses if I am doing it for someone else.  I am not taking time to concentrate on what I want, what I need. I’m resistant to it because I am scared of it, this whole process because I have been burned by it twice before. I’m afraid of falling and wondering where I’ll end up.

I’ve had these vivid daydreams of all of us standing upon a hill, a hill made of broken glass.  Shards everywhere dangerously looming as we climb this hill we trying not to fall. Upon this hill, we climb and climb until we reach a place to stand atop it. Those willing to reach the summit are bathed in this light them and from their heart comes a dream in the shape of an orb as offering to this light.  This dream can carry them high up into the sky, but if the dream is not strong enough or the person two weak the both come crashing down to earth, to be cut by these hills of glass.  It’s for there we find out where we are, as some dreams fall and shatter upon the ground making that hill a little higher with pieces of its broken self.  I have fallen twice now, with a dream still intact, it’s my body which I’m worried about breaking because this time I will have the chance to fly higher than ever before, but that means I also have the change of falling father than I could ever imagine.  I know I shouldn’t be entertaining it but what could happen if I don’t make it if I don’t succeed. How will life find a way, and which part of me will break first my dream or me.

It’s here that I see myself, young and naive of the world I have strived to live.  I see this young apparition unphased by the fear and anxiety that experience brings with it. He is a different person than I but same in ambition. To be something great is always what he dreamed up. This resounding dream is something I carried with me, through time, shaping it to what it is now with experience.  It’s stronger and more well formed but still the same dream at the heart of it.  This young apparition gives me solace as it reminds me that at least I know that if no one else, the kid who I was years and years ago would believe in me. I carry it with because it is me, so soon enough we see how high my dreams will fly, and remember it’s always my choice to get back up again.

No Sleep

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Normally I make a joke when people point out that I don’t sleep much anymore.  Saying things like “There ain’t no rest for the wicked” or “I can sleep when I’m dead” because it’s funny to me.  Truthfully, I do get enough sleep every night, around 5 to 6 hours during the week and 7 1/2 on the weekends.  What people are mostly commenting on is the fact I tend to work late night, but for me, it’s peaceful, a way to wind down the day and sometimes the only time I can really concentrate on anything.

But not this week.

This week has been different.  Nights have been restless with the apprehensions about my future and school. I spent them staring at a screen, pushing myself to finish what I said I need to after which I would go to shut my eyes, and all I get is the darkness but nothing else. No calm, no peace, just quiet darkness.

I don’t really know if it means I’m in a bad place or a good one.  It’s the romantic in me that sees this as the final barrier to really being able to say I’ve put my all into anything.  But it’s not fun, the cloud that persists over my head, my eyes that burn in the light, and I am unable to think or do anything productively. Maybe I’ll get used this change to 3 or 4 hours, this feeling of sleeplessness, perhaps these feeling will go away after I stick with it for long enough.  I don’t know, but even in my recovery I am still tired but must press on.

It’s week one, and if this is any indication of how the rest of this year goes I am in for a roller coaster. I tell myself that this is what my dream requires, this sacrifice of self that may take a lot but ultimately will give me what I’ve been envisioning since I began this journey back in high school. For me it’s a constant question, how much will I need to push myself to get what I want and a constant wonder of what more will it take from me before this is through.

Thinking about it, take is a strong word since I choose to do follow through with it. I choose to try and stay up for as long as possible.  I choose to try and squeeze the most out of my days. I choose to forgo going out when I have work, I choose to stay on campus those extra hours to get things done.  I choose, I choose, I choose, and maybe that’s my problem with it, it finally came a time where I no longer chose, my body just did, and I was left unable to stop this restive onslaught. I don’t know if it’s a battle I will need to fight in the future, but the moment I guess I’ll just take advantage of all the extra time not sleeping.

Beyond The Sort

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A tall building on a warm evening. A slight breeze blowing in the northwestern direction picking up the heat emanating off the hot concrete from the earlier that sun-scarred day. It’s warm enough for sweat beads to form on the body but cool enough not to be bothersome.  The last lights of the sun have already dissipated leaving only the artificial lamps of the living to illuminate the blackened streets below. There on top of that building we stand alone on the precipice, waiting for the answer, will we float or sink. It is as if we are to walk along the edge and be judged. Judged by a force that does not know context or form will decide. Where then does our destiny lie, and will we ever know unless we open ourselves to falling. Will it decide right or left, one will lead to death and the other release.  There we walk, teetering on that edge, hoping it’s not already too late.

Almost every student looking to attend graduate school have to take a test. Its named  Graduate Record Examination or called more commonly as the GRE. This test is daunting to most because of its deceptively simple questions require students to brush up on skills and abilities that ultimately have nothing to do with the subject matter they are attempting to study. Of course, there are exceptions to this but ultimately this exam that is the great standardizer among students and although it may not get you into a program, it can certainly keep you out.  I bring up this exam, not for the exam,  I could devote pages to how much this test has cheated young scholars that I know out of opportunities, no today I want to highlight of because of the way this exam is scored.

You can refer to this test as a living test, it’s really amazing. You see, as you take the test, the difficulty of the test will adjust to you, you get one wrong, questions get easier, you get one right, the test gets harder.  What it’s doing is gauging your score by homing in on exactly where your proficiency level is.  The only problem with this is that the first couple questions ultimately become the most important ones.  These are the great sorting questions, get the first couple wrong and it is impossible to get a high score on the GRE.  First sort, top half or bottom, then exactly where in those halves you lie. The rest of the questions are there to accurately gauge your specific score and percentile.  This is done so that Math majors and English majors can take the same test and still get an accurate measurement of their ability when compared to everyone else in between.

Now while you take the test, you can bring your score up if those first couple questions just happened to be your weakness, but for some, the test is decided after a much shorter time. You might answer all the questions, but your score was determined only after the first few, your ability to fly cut short by the first few mistakes.  Of course exactly how your test is scored and exactly how long it took to score it is a company secret, you’ll never know how long it took for people to make those judgments. If you do bad, you have to start all over, pay out some more money and hope that next time will go better.

It’s really unfortunate not just because the test is terrible but a lot of the time this system mirrors the reality.  We are sorted in such a way where the first few mistakes ultimately set us back, mistakes that may have nothing to do with the path you are trying to follow control you. If you get the first couple answers wrong you get sorted, and sorted, and sorted until having to start over becomes the only option but at that point, you’ve put all your time and money to get there.  What does it take to bridge that gap, how do you become the one that rises to the top, the cream instead of the water? Do these barriers matter because at some point when we get mixed together you can’t really break cream from coffee.

I don’t argue that it’s a way to give those who show more potential more opportunity and the system works for some but it is also seeded in the belief that people don’t change and with that belief, great barriers arise to separate those cans from cannots.  This is not everywhere, there are great institutions whose message to the world is let us help you make a good life for yourself.  It is then I who has this problem, this desire of prestige reserved for the few who are sorted.  This inequality in my heart that calls to say that I am not worth the dirt on the ground if I can’t fly in the sky.  What are we then to this, the world tells us where the “important” people are and live. To the hill that rises live those who stand above us all who live below telling us only the few deserve the right to live there.

We stand on the precipice readying ourselves to be sorted by the force that knows not who were are or what we can do by a system built by those of who have just like us been sorted. We crawl upon each other hoping that we get high enough to reach and yet we crush all those below holding all the weight. We destroy and rid ourselves of anything weighing us down in hope fly but remove everything about ourselves that makes flying worthwhile. We are not then defined by this, we are defined by the actions and relations to our fellow man and I’d be damned if I will let this system built by the collective action of those who sort us to keep me changing the world.

Graduating Sweet

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May through June many eager students finish their credits and classes to finally break free the holds of a school and receive a diploma verifying their achievements and training that they spent years trying to obtain.  It’s a very happy time, though can be bittersweet because in it’s nature it represents an inevitable change in the world for a great many people.

This was how this year’s graduation felt, bittersweet. Never have I ever been so invested in the wellbeing of my upperclassmen as I have this past year.  I have been to a great many graduations, but this one was a send-off to many people who I have spoken to, connected to, and love. I sat there thinking about this as one after one, each of my friends got up to be honored for their great achievements of which they all should be extremely proud.  For a moment sitting there, I want them all to just stick around, for nothing to change, for next week just to be next week and not a path to something new.

I’m not an emotional person, I am extremely passionate but I am not one to tear up during these events. Why should I? I am so happy for these people to move forward with their lives, to find their new adventures and get on with their journeys. We still have our memories together right, they won’t forget these times together.  Yeah sure, a couple months or years from now they might get busy but it won’t change our relationship, regardless of how much longer it takes them to reply. They will all be meeting new people, learning new things, and being great in their own way and staying will only hold them back, and they need to fly in their own way because there so much for them in the skies ahead.

Maybe it hasn’t hit me yet, and if it hasn’t it won’t for a while. Probably not until after everything settles down and I recognize how much I have gotten used to their presence. Maybe after not being able to hear their laugh in the hall,  or being able to wander into the lab and talk about some far off idea, Maybe after starting to miss these strange conversations we would have, and missing the familiar faces I no longer see. I will miss them all in their own ways because they all mattered to me.

I am lucky, during graduation sat next to my friends who I have spent the last year with, working, growing, and laughing together. I will have them this next year as this stressful program continues to push us to the moment we are standing on stage graduating together. I am happy I still have them with me because if everyone left, I don’t know what I would do.

We will all see each other again, but my hope is when it comes time and I get up on that stage, that I am at least half as great as any of my friends I saw graduating today.

How To Cultivate A Thought Parasite

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It’s happened again, these crises of the mind and spirit.  I feel it in my bones, fear. What am I to do. The rising tide of anxiety washes over me, drowning me it’s dense waters. Leaving me gasping for air in the cold abyss of failure. Grasping for air, and hoping to get out.

This past week I was confronted by the smallest of the invasive thoughts that fed and grew in the back of my mind quickly.  It’s the lack of sleep I said, or perhaps the hunger.  I’ve just been pushing myself too hard, but that’s it’s breeding grounds.  When my mental defenses are lowered, it strikes at me, claiming more and more of my brain, consuming me and my thoughts.  There I am, battling against the creature who uses the voice in my head to try and convince me that I am no good. Trying to convince me to lay down again and begin to die.

It often follows those highs of experience, I know mine does. This one came after a let a small daydream free, and it became a nightmare.  The thoughts in my mind surging after this mental parasite to stop the spread but it was already too late, it implanted itself in my insecurities of the past, fertile ground for a thought so sweet. A feeling of grandeur turns to ash as my capability comes into question.  “You will never be good enough to get this far,” it says,  “Turn back, collapse, you know your just setting yourself up to fail.” I don’t know what to do, the foundation I build for myself feels more and more like a house of cards teetering on the precipice of collapse.  What is this, will it be good enough. My path once more becomes obscured and dark.  How far will I be able to go, and even if I give it my all, will that be enough?

I realize I’ve invested now, that was my mistake.  I am invested in a future I want so bad that my heart cries out to me as I speak it.  This is where I went wrong, didn’t your childhood teach you not to do this. Not to invest in one way or another because you will be let down again and again. I can’t help myself, I want it so bad that I am willing to give all away for a second in that world.  A passion that erupts and drives me forward, that want’s to turn into the crazed obsession of a madman with a purpose and a goal.

“You just are strong enough” it retorts, “You never have been, and you never will be.”  This thought, drawing back blow after blow to strike at me is right.  I feel like I’ve had so many chances and through these chances I have successfully squandered my dream in the pretense of comfort and mediocrity.  I just hope, time after time, hour after hour, that I will wash away these inadequacies and show the world that I am someone. I don’t know though, my guard is down, and my weakness is revealed, my self-esteem takes a blow. All I am is human, and maybe I am not enough.

Truth is I am weak.  I am weak and at times incapable.  I am an emotional creature who waxes and wanes on the mood of the day. At times unable because of the wall of inability that rises up ahead of me. I’m loud and think before I speak.  I sometimes say some funny things and do even weirder ones. My brain fills up sometimes, and I feel like an idiot because I don’t understand what is going on.  I know this, this is just what it’s like to be human. I know this limitation, and that’s okay because that’s all we all are. Being human, and together we can actually do some good and make life beautiful. As long as I know that, I will be okay. As as I know that, I can get rid of the parasitic thought in my brain.

Chasing A Dream, Where Ever It May Go

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“It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

I know recently, I have been complaining a lot about the fact the I’ve been tired, but I want to take a moment to reflect on the reason I am exhausted in the first place.

I’ve been busy, busy with various new experiences life as seen to throw my way.  Mostly work, to be honest, but its weird, this is never the type of working experience that I have ever had.  It’s this thing where I almost crave it.  I work and act as if all myself want and needs to.  I’ve had a lot of jobs and been through a lot of schooling, and this is the first time I’ve really felt this way about all the things sitting in front of me. It’s like a high mountain to climb, and I’m mountain climber trying to traverse it.

My days have been filled with staying at school for more than 12 hours at a time.  I check each day what my home door to door time is and each day I realize its extending.  At these points, I would find that I would be tired of going, tired of continually having to push myself more to get done everything I want to do. Each opportunity feels as if it is a whetstone, sharpening my the tools I will use to push forward in my life.  It feels as if this moment, my body feels live so that it wants to keep pushing farther and further than I ever had before.

Maybe its perspective, the two years away from school has definitely changed how I approach education.  Though I always knew I would continue down this path, I feel more passionate about my choice to do so.  Unrestricted, more sure-footed about where I want to go and what I want to do.   It keeps me vigilant about my opportunities, keeps me actively striving for more, until I find myself staying up late, working long hours to complete something.

My body needs rest as it starts to ache all over.  My eyes begin to burn from all the monitors and from being awake so long during the day.  My mind sits in a fog by the time I get home, just trying to digest everything that just happened. I have no time, and yet I keep going in the hopes that I will catch up in the long run.  My belly runs empty, and I have to remind myself to eat enough for the amount I expend. And yet, I love these moments, because it feels like I am finally pushing myself to do something great.

There a danger to it, with the new feeling comes cautionary tales of both burn out and breaking.  If I push too hard too fast, I can break down my body and my health to the point where my body refuses me, and I have to stop the obsession. The second is set this fire for much for too long runs the risk of turning the subject I have fallen in love with into a bastion of resentment.  Begining to internalize the little things and grow tired of the subject and the place I am to work.  As always, it’s about the balance of these things, to keep my mind healthy and my ridiculous actions in check.

I want to push myself so I can grow strong under the opportunities that I have been presented. By the end of this short two years, I want to have the strength to tackle the next five and the knowledge of how to get stronger for the next 60 and beyond. Every day is a new challenged and all I want to do is live up to it.

A Community of Musketeers

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I’ve recently join now a collective referred to as a cohort which is something I have been working towards for a while. What it is, is a simple name for a group of graduate students which come into a department or program the same year you do. In essence, these people are people with whom you’ll be traveling with on the part of your journey to the ultimate goal of the degree.

I have, as always, been thinking a lot about that means.  One of the functions of higher learning is to find a place you both you fit, and that fits you. Though in doing masters, it’s the process is a bit simplified because of the supposed two-year time clock that is ticking away until the end.  Either way, the people I came in with will still be people who I share this experience with one way or another.

This is not to downplay everyone’s personal intentions for coming to this particular program, but it does beg the question. How do we want our relationship with each other to be and how will that shape the future of our time together? I feel this is extremely important because there are so few of us, that the decision we make individually will affect the group collectively.

My dearest hope is that in some way or another we ban together. As reminiscent of the title I chose, the musketeers,  it would be nice to form some sort of bond in which we can really help each other out in our times of need. All for one, and one for all.  I know this sounds a bit idealistic, but I think that’s the spirit needed to actually accomplish something great.  I’m not saying that we have to hang out with each other all the time or even really become close. What I am saying is that in our times of need or weakness someone is there to help and lend a hand.  We will act as both colleagues and rivals. We can set the obstacles and help people overcome them so when the actual danger comes, we will be ready.  Even though we go to the end on our own merit and alone, it doesn’t mean that our strength has to only come from within, you are always much stronger with others are helping you.

I think it all comes down to wanting to leave this place a lot better than where I found it.  The act of giving is one few things we can do where we end up with more than what we started out with.  I honestly believe that if we want this experience to be the most successful, it can be then we must give and not just take. We must utilize what we can and blaze a path for our future. This doesn’t have to be the worst experience of our lives, and even with the difficulties that come with grad school, we will be able to look back and remember something great. It is the beginning of our future.