If You are [not] a Dreamer, Come in.

Things have converged recently in a funny way.  I’m trying to find the beginning.    I think the beginning is home.  I have arrived. Its exciting and sharp.  I spent years, shit – a decade of my life – swirling in a lazy lackluster vortex.  No goals what.so.ever.  I said and continue to say that my goal is to be happy.  I based my entire rationale for everything on this motive.  People nodded like I’m so enlightened and refreshing when they hear me say this.  Clearly I’m focused on the important things and I’m seeing much farther ahead than my peers who have their material obsessions: job, education, family – whatever.  At least they have nouns; things you can quantify and hold.  I have a fucking adjective.

I’ve been in a ‘blame your childhood’ mode lately so I’m sticking with it.  Moving around so much encouraged a certain hardness – don’t love anything or any place because its temporary.  I guess its like language – giving yourself over to something is much harder to learn when you’re older.  So slacking or not investing became the pattern, a survival skill.  Do enough to get by, but don’t extend yourself too much because its going to get snatched away soon.  Observing the not so fruitful fruit of this mentality, my dad was disappointed.  He seldom found my efforts acceptable. Truth: they weren’t good enough for me either. I now think my best would have pleased him, though.  This is a revelation because I used to blame my unwillingness to try on his disapproval.  As if even my best wouldn’t be enough.  But this is inaccurate.  It was the feeling of making a bad investment holding me back.  This may not make sense to some of you.  If I had time, energy, and ability, and stood to lose nothing; why not invest?  Imagine putting your heart and soul into a garden.  Receiving accolades for your exceptional flora.  Elevating in the gardening community.  And then watching someone mow your garden over for no reason.  “Getting your lawn mowed” hurts less when its a shitty lawn.  The mode of not trying was a defense mechanism.  Unfortunately these were formative years and through my early twenties I slacked without stimulus.

I think the first thing I tried to put all of myself into was relationships.  Maybe because the age for relationships came with the first hint of locational stability.  I’m sadly good at relationships.  I usually sacrifice way too much of myself to them – but they were something I cared deeply about, and what was ‘myself’ anyway? They were, at times, the only thing I cared about beyond the enigmatic ‘being happy’.  Having someone who loved me who I was able to love in return felt good.  It felt like happy, which was the goal after all.

But some things have happened lately and now happy isn’t enough.  Happy is important, but it can’t be the only thing.  Therefore, relationships are important but can’t be the only thing.  I have plenty of talents, but they seem to be talents I don’t value or talents with things in which there is no room for me to participate, shine, or grow.  So I’ve been running with “Jack of all trades Master of none” for a long time.

And in this culture of everyone accepting everything about everyone, someone finally called bullshit.  In the only possible way I would respond – by expressing confusion.  He didn’t make a statement I, the master rationalizer, could defend against.  Just plain didn’t fucking get it.  How could I move through life with no goals?  What got me up each day?  The best I could come up with was ‘finishing school.’  Why?  Because I feel like a moron when I’m not in school.  Really – are these the purposes of my life?  Happy and ‘not feeling like a moron’?  L-a-m-e.

This semester I complete the course requirements for the neuroscience core at UT Dallas.  I’ve been in the program for the last two of my eight years at UTD and I’m fascinated.  Like a person hurt in a past relationship, I pushed my feelings and interest down.  Fear held me back.  Fear of admitting to caring about something, fear of not being good enough, fear of trying and failing, but mostly I think – fear of loving and losing.

I want to talk about how ridiculous fear is.  I didn’t realize I was afraid until I started a dialog with…someone I was afraid of.  I protected certain parts of myself and refused to discuss my greatests interests.  Instead of appearing as the intelligent capable person I am, I just looked undeveloped and silly.  For what?  I have friends who have died for no reason or who are physically incapable of doing that which they would give anything to do.  I know people living with health conditions that lurk like ticking time bombs.  In the face of this, what do have to be afraid of? This isn’t a ‘do because others can’t’ mantra, its a ‘stop whining and embrace what you love while you can because there is no better use of your time’ mantra.

It suddenly occurred to me that my philosophy on happy was a little circular.  As an abstract, the goal of being happy is fine.  But my relationship with happy was skewing the results.  I’m a person who believes in controlling your own mindset.  Ie – if something doesn’t make me feel happy I either eliminate that thing or change my attitude about it.  Its very response driven, passive.  I still very much value the ability to ‘turn that frown upside down’, but, as much as I hate to admit, its a little contrived.  Living on this kind of happy is like living on cotton candy – no substance, but you could make it in a sickly fashion.  For me, and I think everyone, the essential nutrients come from investing yourself wholly in something that inspires you.  I’m not sure if this is success dependent or not yet.

The moment for life is always now.  So sink or swim.  I studied consistently this semester with joy for the first time in my life.  I had to learn study habits.  Sure, I did a lot of pissing and moaning too, but deep down I’m enthralled and I wouldn’t trade doing that homework for anything. Technically I need only a few more classes to graduate with my BS in neuroscience.  I could finish this December.  But that would be the end of the love affair for me.  Habitual slacking as described above made its mark.  My GPA sucks and I haven’t done any lab work or forged any relationships with the faculty.  Graduate school would be completely out of the question.  And what does a person interested in brain science do if they can’t work in a lab and be surrounded by research and academia?  Pop a few kids out and read the occasional Journal of Neuroscience?  See above:  l.am.e.  So I must stay in school a little longer to posture for graduate school and I couldn’t possibly be more excited.

I am swamped with finals this week and all I can think about is how I can’t wait for August when school starts again and I begin work in the neurophysiology lab I just joined.  Thats right.  I went and knocked on someone’s door, did my bit of evangelism, and made a spot for myself. Embracing neuroscience happened mid semester for me, and in the fall I’ll finally hit the ground running.  I can’t wait to see what I’m made of!

3 Responses

  1. I think you can do anything you put your mind to and I would do anything I can to help a friend. You are AMAZING!!!

  2. You never struck me as holding back! Your mind is like a scalpel, sharp and penetrating, and you have whittled on me a few times. I think the older I get, the stupider I become.

    My motivation, I think, is preparedness or security. Maybe that comes from my childhood experiences, which are similar to yours, in that my Dad was a career Navy man. Even after my parents separated and divorced, my family kept moving every few years. Before any of that weighed on me, though, I already realized that if I prepared early and well, I could weather storms that would wipe out most people. Ordinarily, I think, my ambition might have turned me into another Bill Gates. As you know, that isn’t how things turned out. The storms came too early and too strongly, and ambition does not run in my family. I’m just too tired or lazy to run so hard.

    My 45th birthday was Memorial Day. In this last month, I completed another semester at a junior college, so now I need only 2 more classes to graduate with an AS in Computer Science. I belong to 2 honor societies and I was just appointed as Secretary of 1 of them. This is where I should have been when I was your age, or even younger. I earned my AAS degree in Laser Electro-Optic Technology in 1992. I wonder what the other graduates from my program are doing now? I’m afraid I don’t have much to show for 20 years. No career; no friends; no family. I have lost everything that I had hoped to have. I’m wondering what is to become of me? Look out 20 or 30 years from now; what do you see?

  3. I loved reading this. You are made of amazing stuff (see, I don’t study science, so I just say “stuff”). I love you and miss you lots, and even though you don’t need me to be so, and don’t need me to say so, I’m proud of you. Fiercely.

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