Reflect, Thrive
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Disengaged but Reconnecting

I got an email today from Tumblr saying Happy 5th Birthday. It’s been five years since I started that blog–since I started blogging period. Which means it’s also been five years since I began a very transformative study abroad experience in Brazil, which was the very reason I began blogging so as to keep my family in touch with what I was doing and where I was–before I had smart phones and Whatsapp and Viber.

So I decided to revisit my long abandoned Tumblr to see what it was I was going on about between Sep 2009 and Dec 2011. First of all, I had over 1000 posts! (I only have like 100 something on here) When I started on tumblr, it had fairly low usage, so people were really just writing or posting a personal image here and there. By the time I stopped using it (and part of the reason I stopped using it) it had turned into the twitter of blogging–>constant reposting of other people’s posts, most of which were just pretty pictures, quotes, gifs, or ridiculous youtube videos. Mind you, I no longer feel the need to post about every little thing or interaction as was (and still is even more so now) the trend with the boom of social media, it still struck me that I seemed so much more engaged then.

Reading the content of my tumblr made it very evident how much I’ve changed, and how much things have changed in my life. Although there are a few posts that, eh, I’ll probably delete, given too much vague whining about bad days, I’m really not talking about regrettable posts that I wish had never seen the light of the internet; those posts are few and far between.

What’s really different is how much more energy and passion I seemed to have at the time. I don’t know if it was the drag of grad school, the huge amount of debt I accrued in two years, the 6 month job hunt with that impending loan repayment looming in the distance, or the now daily 9-5 grind that has smoldered some of that fire. Obviously, with the shift from financial dependence and a relatively carefree and flexible lifestyle to one that’s very routinized and preoccupied with paying the bills and making ends meet—there’s bound to be a shift in mentality.

But it’s depressing. I look back (even though it was just 2-3 years ago) and realize that I’ve lost some of that fire that drove me to do new things and take chances; that motivation and drive that was necessary to maintain an unstable and ungrounded nomadic reality can get put out in the endeavor to achieve that stability and home base that everyone tells you to grow up and strive for. As I’ve gotten financially more comfortable, I’ve feel I’ve gotten too mentally comfortable. I don’t feel as compelled to get out and do new things, instead looking forward to coming home, cooking, and watching netflix. I’m not as compelled to try new things, instead worried about saving money for the “rainy day” or the “what if?” emergency.

When I had no money as an Americorps VISTA in NYC (you sign up to experience some version of poverty–smh), I saved about a hundred or so each month and spent the rest without thinking too hard about it. And except for one or two times where I was stretched thin, I was perfectly comfortable–I had what I needed and had some extra to do some of what I wanted. I thought that the day I earned even twice what I made then, I’d be in hog heaven. Fast forward to today where I earn not only twice, but three times that amount, and I still feel like I’m living check to check, even in a city with a lower cost of living. I’m probably spending as much proportionately as I did before, but I find far less satisfaction from what it’s spent on–THINGS rather than EXPERIENCES. My little bit of extra in NYC went to dance classes and the occasional bus trip to somewhere. My extra now goes to clothes (that never fit quite like I’d like), make-up, alcohol, furniture, appliances, and more bills than ever before.

Distractions!

My journey seemed a lot clearer when I had a good vantage point–a broad perspective that allowed me to see in many directions at once. But there is so much pressure on you to focus–to spend the majority of your time and energy whittling everything down to ONE area of expertise, to read all the literature and get all the training there is to be had in that ONE field. And if you want to get anywhere in that particular field you’re supposed to then convince someone you’ve never met just how productive you’ve been, how well you’ve managed to concentrate, through some asinine, one-page personal statement or cover letter and a perfectly tailored resume that only reflects what’s “relevant” to that particular position. And then when you get the position, everyone reminds you how important is to save your money so you can enjoy retirement and do whatever you have to do to keep said position so you can pay your bills.

Don’t get me wrong, there is certainly value in focusing, in narrowing down the breadth of possibilities to something tangible, but my fear is that in that endeavor to focus and devote myself entirely to achieving some thing within this field, I’m starting to view everything else–the experiences, ideas, and interests that shaped me, the very things that brought me to this path–as distractions. And in that way, the focus on that thing results in losing sight of everything else. Lost perspective.

For the past two years, I’ve been trying to follow these guidelines of what I’m “supposed” to do to get to where I want to be–guidelines laid out by advisors and colleagues in my field, and people who’ve just been working all their lives, who “know the game.” Quite frankly, it ain’t working for me. It has become disengaging and it’s putting out some of the fire that ignites my drive and passion. I imagine doing what you’re “supposed to”  or what’s expected of you is probably not working for a lot of people, but they (like I have been) placate their discontents by filling it up with more STUFF. The stuff doesn’t necessarily make anyone happy, and you don’t really know why you need it, just that for some reason you’re supposed to want it and it’s supposed to signify having made it or achieved something, but it’s just more distractions. Doing what feels right is difficult when it diverges from what’s expected. When people start casting looks of doubt or apprehension about your choices, you instinctively want to backpedal and go down the path that conjures up support from those people around you. But at what expense?

Lately, I feel as if my brain is atrophying. Even as I write this, I have a million and a half thoughts running through my mind and I’m struggling to string words together to make a coherent sentence; rethinking and overthinking every choice–the delete button has probably been tapped more than every other key on this keyboard.

I used to be able to tap out these really thoughtful, interesting ideas in the span of a few minutes. And now I over analyze everything, scrutinizing every single thought, searching for a more sophisticated synonym for a word I think sounds too adolescent, trying to make thoughts sound more complex and worth reading, otherwise why post it to live in internet eternity. Worrying about who may stumble upon this blog, reading and wondering if I’m really as educated as I claim to be, judging me. Wondering if potential employers may read this–my current employers…It’s overwhelming. And I think in the end it’s making me less authentic, both in virtual reality and reality reality.

Meandering has always seemed work for me, to keep me engaged, to keep what motivates me in my sightline. I’ve never been all that conventional, and I think that’s what has set me apart; it’s what’s contributed to my successes. So I need to change my focus; I need to back away and gain some perspective and reevaluate. What am I doing? Why am I doing? What do I want? What do I need? What’s just extraneous? I need to find someway to integrate all of my seemingly disparate experiences and enjoyments into something whole and fulfilling.

At the time that I switched over to wordpress I either didn’t know how to or didn’t care to merge my tumblr feed onto this blog. But today I’ve done just that, the archives now go back to Aug 2009 and now this blog seems like a much more complete picture–there’s a throughline.

While I’m sure this post seems disconnected; all over the place. It’s only a reflection of how I’m feeling at this moment. What’s probably most interesting about this post is not what I wrote, but that in writing it, it’s the only time in the last 4 months that I’ve been so engaged with anything so as to be able to fend off the distractions of hunger, social media, or just doing anything else for the 5+ hours I’ve been writing this.

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