Hugging Oceans

IMG_2785I tried to hug the ocean today. But try as I might, arms stretched as wide as they could muster, the ocean had more to give.

I think I’d forgotten how much this ocean has given me. Since, well, the sweltering heat and humidity that come with it smack your face and grab each strand of hair until you’re a giant frizz-head sweat ball.

This ocean, it feels like my home. To me, the answer of “where are you from?” really asks “where did you grow?” And my scariest, my clumsiest, and my most outstanding growth experiences were at Cocoa Beach.

And, today, as I dove into the murky, temperate, salty water it felt as though each wave brought with it a memory of my time here. While some were sad and a few of them hurt, I mostly found myself gleeful with giggles and the unending desire to swim, backflip, and walk on my hands until all my strength, balance, and breath were gone.

So, come here ocean. I need another hug. Today, it feels good to be home.

 

 

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Apparently, it’s Father’s Day

My dad and I always fantasized about driving US-1 and stopping at any brown sign we thought sounded cool. Maybe that’s where I get it from – my desire to always be exploring, driving every scenic byway, always feeling my interests peaked at a “point of interest” sign, and loving the parks so much I live in one.

I had one of the most fantastic days of my life today. Odd thing is, I didn’t do anything extraordinary. I simply took a roadtrip, experienced new things and took the scenic byways.

You see, last weekend I looked up the scenic byways I still have to drive in Wyoming (since on my dad’s birthday a few years back I declared it was a life’s mission to drive them all, but I don’t actually know them) and came across Sand Creek Massacre scenic byway. Instantly, I looked it up. “8 hours that changed the Great Plains forever” and there’s an NPS Historic Site in Colorado. I made plans to go the very next weekend. As it turns out, there were lots of brown signs along the way: Sante Fe Trail stop points and Bent’s Old Fort made the must-do list. It was a day my dad would have loved: chocked full of history, gorgeous drives, and brown signs for weeks if we’d let ourselves. But, as I sit home now, I realize I didn’t think of my dad once – not even for a minute.

Last night, as the heat of a 100 degree day with no AC started to wear me out, I headed for the mountains – the Sangre de Cristo, to be exact. Snoop and I camped out in San Isabel National Forest near the top of Medano pass as we hiked to an open patch of Aspen for sunset and watched the sun settle behind the peaks and realized their namesake.

Much to Snoop’s displeasure, I took down Medano trying my hands and feet at four wheeling through the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve and into the Park. Somehow, with never topping over 10 miles per hour, it was one of the most exhilarating drives of my life. We stopped as much as the windy, muddy, rocky road would allow to take in the smells, bird calls, view of fat little fawns, and fog lifting over the mountains as morning showed its bright face. Traversing this terrain was new for me but so was criss-crossing the creek with sometimes thigh high water flows – enough to leave me wondering if one would know when an engine is “flooded” (I’d soon come to find out when I met a man trapped at the last crossing by that very circumstance waiting for a ranger). The jaw dropping sight of the great sand dunes suddenly appearing as I took a curve through the ecotone stole my breath so sharply that I could have crashed the truck. It was again like nothing I’d ever seen before – except I’d been to the dunes only a few short months ago – yet this time, they were beneath my tires giving the most astonishing viewpoint.

Snoop hated it. By the way.

He much preferred when we made it back to open highway and navigated with only signage and faint memories of the hours I’ve spent in awe trying to memorize the Colorado map since my phone had died the night before. We made our way through Los Camino Antiguos, Collegiate Peaks, Top of the Rockies, and finally Colorado River Headwaters as we entered the most beautiful home: Rocky Mountain National Park.

All the while, I never once thought of my dad. I sat in my truck, listening only to Snoop’s heavy hating-the-drive sighs and the road noisefilling my head with the past week and friends who would love the day right along with me – but never my father.

I come home to electricity, charge my phone, pull up a browser and instantly find out that it is father’s day and I hadn’t thought of mine once.

Any other year, I probably would fallen to the floor in a heaving ugly-cry. But I didn’t. I realized I commemorated my father today, without even being consciously aware. And, perhaps, he might just find that the greatest gift I could give – to live on with him not only in my heart and my head but in my actions and favorite pastimes.

Rest in peace, Paul Punky Arthur Hearns, I might finally have a small handle on this “life” thing you left me with.

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Raw, unfiltered bathroom thoughts

2010 – can we call it a “year of growth?” Well, I guess we can call it anything. But what’s appropriate? “Year of growth” is certainly what it was, but something doesn’t sit right with that.

As I sit on an end table stuffed into the bathroom of my tiny cabin, I realize I haven’t truly had the time to pluck my eyebrows in years. You know the pluck – where you can pull up the brow or pull down the eyelid and take the time to get that pesky new hair before it turns dark brown or when you have the time to just sit and wait for the tears to subside when you accidentally got that nerve a little too good.

What gave me all this time? Could I even do my toes right now? Shit. That’s kind of a lot of grey hairs. Teaching. Damn. Well. Should I pluck those? Fuck it. It’s me. Well, except for this one. It’s unruly and sticking straight up. Ouch.

Where was I? Right. 2010. It’s been a while. Damn. “Do something that makes you uncomfortable,” they said. “Every day,” they said. They even said Eleanor Roosevelt said it. So, I did it.

August 30, 2010. I was living in a room I rented with a sweet, young, naively dumb-to-the-world couple. I had a bookshelf in my bathroom back then too, with envelopes. (Note: the steam from the shower both closes and opens those fuckers to the point of uselessness. Not recommend.) I cut my bangs that night. A lot. To forever to be immortalized in my passport photo.
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What to do with them now? Can I find scissors? Fuck this length. Well, it is easier. Oh, right. I was growing them out for the Peace Corps. Mud hut living probably didn’t allow for frequent fringe trims.

God damn. This all makes me so uncomfortable. So 2010 can’t be the “year of growth” – because all of them are.

What’s the line with insanity and the path to self-actualization? Or where? Is where a question for intangible things? Fuck. That doesn’t even matter. Does it? Either way, I’m that pendulum my therapist drew – where I’m at both ends simultaneously. Maybe insanity and the path tonself-actualization are the same. For me, at least? I just have to get it all out. On paper, or rather iPhone notes.

This “new” life, I think it suits me. I think it speaks to me. Or, I speak to myself more now. Either way, I know I’m growing.

Just as I was (trying) to explain to a local that I quit my job to take time off and volunteer to give back, he offered me a job. That’s not the point of my story, old man! But maybe that’s because I don’t know the point of this. Yet. Each day, I wake with nothing to do but walk the dog, hike in the mountains, and schedule some volunteers for a beautiful National Park. And, everyday I’m just a little uncomfortable at the status of that. Where’s the structure? Where’s the rigid academia schedule? Oh, abandoned. Right. That “growth” thing strikes again.

Now, where are those scissors?

Goodbye.

 

Today, I saw goodbye to my faithful steed. Well, she wasn’t always faithful.

But, with some tender, loving care we managed to find a solid relationship.
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We’ve been to 18 states, Canada, and Mexico together. She hauled kayaks up and downriver on my beck and call:
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She let me put her in places barely defined as “roads”
Like in Cataviña:
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Or in Mount Baker-Snoqualmie:
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Or in Shoshone National Forest:
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She even allowed Snoop unlimited access:
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Even though he hated her and always tried to claw his way out:
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Or bring in mud:
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Speaking of mud, there was that time I took her where she shouldn’t be when I turned too left at that windsock. But we didn’t go “down that far”
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While she delivered me safely to every location imaginable, (even the time these guys visited and we learned about defrost and NEVER equalizing the temperature)
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it’s time to say goodbye.

Thank you for bringing me here
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but this is where I get off the ride. I need a change and her reliability is needed elsewhere.

It’s true, I never wanted her. Not really. I wanted my truck. I wanted a manual. And we’ve been good together, and she’s (almost) changed my mind on automatics, and she’s made me fall in love with Subarus, it’s time for a manual truck.

But I also have to say goodbye. There’s this love poem ( https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=mdJ6aUB2K4g ) I love. It reminds us “maybe love arrives just when its supposed to and maybe love leaves exactly when love must. When loves arrives say ‘welcome, make yourself comfortable’ and when love leaves … ‘thank you for stopping by’.”

You remind me of everything I gave up for the Peace Corps. You remind me I gave up my job, some of my favorite art, and even my only plate. I see you and my heart breaks. The thought of driving you after May 29 hurts as much as as the thought of not flying to Ghana that day.

You were one of the last things to give up for that. And I have to keep that commitment. I just have to. I can’t explain it any better than that.

So, I’ll clean you one last (and probably sixth ever) time as you’ll need to show your best as you begin a new relationship.

I guess this is a story of adaptability, but I don’t know the ending yet.

I’d been looking toward this week for months. My staging date was May 26. The day my 27-month stint was to start. The three days I’d take to meet fellow volunteers, get prepared to leave, check and double check packed items and paperwork, then leave for Ghana. Instead, I check-in volunteers, check and double check their paperwork, then leave for backcountry trails.

My work visa came in the mail today. But so did my National Park Service ID card. My life was about to be crammed into a communal mud hut. But instead I’m crammed alone into a cabin. Snoop and I were to say goodbye. But I’ve just reunited with him. My packing list was to include clothes for muggy, hot weather. But I went shopping for alpine gear instead. Nothing is how it is supposed to be.

Or is it? Who the fuck knows.

Lately, I picture my life like one of those cool-at-the-time 90’s alternative music videos like Vertical Horizon where you see the character on a split screen living a dual life or alternate realities: one where I’m a Peace Corps volunteer and one where I’m a National Park Service volunteer. And while one is fake, I can see it so clearly. I pack the clothes next to a water bottle with a vintage Peace Corps sticker someone gave me to invite me to the “club.” I shake hands with other volunteers while worrying if I was too firm and overbearing for what we’re about to do. I walk into a Ghanian classroom overwhelmed at what to do with the different resources or lackthereof. I sit by a pot of water and cassava leaves wondering how to cook them so I don’t die. These are the dreams I’ve had. This is what I see all day long. Instead, I pack for solo hiking, I shake hands authoritatively, I have every imaginable first-world resource, and I can make guacamole every damn day.

My life is by no means bad. Nevertheless, I mourn the one I’ll never have.

But, I’m fine. In the sense that I’m not, but that’s the only word I know for this feeling: drifting, listless. I wonder if my inability to heave in a pile of ugly tears is due to apathy or exhaustion over the topic. I know I’ve been here before, grief. But what’s the word alcoholics use? Functional. I’m functionally grieving.

Or am I? Can anyone? Am I truly taking in my current, real life and enjoying the moment where I’ve got uninterrupted views of Baker Mountain, mallards preening, elk roaming, chorus frogs croaking for mates, and snipes plummeting for insects? Maybe. It’s all so beautiful I could cry.

And that’s what I came here for. To see if the mountains could heal my heart. So, that’s what I’ll do: stand in the meadows long enough to feel the sunset on my face, weave through the valley forests as I hear the lodgepole pines talk back to the wind, follow the babbling snow melt up the treeline into the alpine tundra, and soak in each raindrop and snowflake as if the clouds were crying for me and washing away the malaise.

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Whatcha got that jug for?

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Pee. Lots and lots of pee. And, “collection,” as they call it, starts promptly at 6:00 AM tomorrow. Well, on or about – I guess my body gets to decide when it has the first pee of the day.

Tomorrow marks my very first kidney function test. And, you might be wondering why I’ve decided to share that . . .it is strange, even by my own standards.

I think it goes back to when I was around 12, actually. It was around this time that my parents were both diagnosed with Hepatitis C. It started with a yearly physical with my dad’s company. He had it – this thing I had never heard of. Shortly thereafter, everyone in the house was tested. I should mention that this was at a time when people still weren’t sure how you could and couldn’t get it – I even remember being told it might be vectored by mosquitoes. In the first round of testing (there were many), it was discovered my mom had it. I remember being poked and prodded far too often for blood work – but it probably wasn’t as often as my memory, since this was a time I was deathly afraid of needles. (Funny how things change!) All too quickly words like “phenotype” and “genotype” became the vernacular of my household, shouting for a “CBC Panel” was no longer something referenced only on the TV (back when E.R. was still popular), and my bathroom became a sterile zone my parents didn’t even enter. I became acutely familiar with the location of my liver – since my parents lived on its opposing side after their “couple’s biopsies,” as if it were some romantic spa to go away to together.

Who got what where? Did I have it? Did that blood transfusion get tested? Where those used needles? Can we use the same nail clippers?

Blood. It’s all we talked about anymore. I learned to clean my own road rash (but I’d had plenty of hours watching my dad wash, wrap, and repeat). The paranoia around toothbrushes was extreme enough to warrant our own cups lest someone have a cut or canker sore. How often should I get tested? How often was I tested? Eventually, I discovered that blood was this super cool fluid that could tell stories and needles, while painful, were a way of making sure I was safe.

…then attention turned to – what is safe? How dangerous was this? What needed to be done? How quickly? Could we wait? I remember, only briefly, hearing that liver transplants might be needed.

I became fascinated. I thought, and still do think, it is the neatest thing that a living person can donate a portion of their liver to save another person. Well, only if it is caught in enough time. My mother was lucky that her Hepatitis entered remission after only one six month session of Interferon. My dad, on the other hand, had viral loads that were off the charts and a late-stage cirrhosis that was never haulted. So, for them, transplants weren’t necessary – but that never stopped my fascination.

So, if you’re asking why I have a jug of pee tomorrow, it probably has a lot to do with that. I have always wanted to help others, if I can. After this next round of testing, we’ll have a better idea if I can donate a kidney.

You might have noticed some Johns Hopkins logos on those papers. I’ve been corresponding with them for quite sometime about becoming a living kidney donor. I tell you this not to scare you, not to make you worry, not to boast about it, but to tell you I’m advocating for sick people the best way I know how – to inform. Even for someone as curious about transplants as I am, there was a lot I didn’t know. But, as I spoke more to my transplant team (yes, I get my own host of people advocating solely for me!), I began to understand the details, the benefits, and the risks – the more informed I was, the more sure I was that I wanted to do it. So, in an effort for you to understand better, I first direct you to the links that got me started: transplants and donation. And below are a few frequently asked questions.

So, this must be for a family member, right? Like your cousins?

Nope, don’t know them. And, while most people do have a directed donation (or a person in mind), it is possible to do a non-directed donation. Of course, there are a few more questionnaires and conversations with a social worker/therapist to make sure you aren’t fully insane. But, a non-directed donation can, in fact, even set up what’s called a pair-wise exchange where multiple people make “chains” of donations like a domino effect.

Are you sure?

Yes, no, well, I think so. I’m about 95% yes, but at Johns Hopkins every nurse, social worker, receptionist – you name it, makes me feel like this is entirely my decision. Sure, people are spending money on my behalf to test my blood and review my documents, but in no way are you ever pressured or felt guilted into continuing. So, right now, I’m still ready and willing to explore the next step and see what happens.

Why?

Because, I can. I can help someone through what seems like an impossible time. Sure, I might die, but, more likely, we also might both get to live. And non-directed donation is the best fit for me – it lets medical professionals decide where the best match might be regardless of emotions or personal relationships; I do not get to decide a life is worth having simply because I know that person. (With no intent to disgrace a phrase that started for a completely different movement:) All lives matter. For me, it’s as simple as that.

 

Why, yes, I am in Atlanta today.

On Monday this week, April 3rd, I was walking to my office and immediately thought of my Yampa trip in April 2015. It didn’t look like it on Monday, but I thought it might snow. It didn’t look like it for the Yampa trip either. Turns out, it snowed both days. The important part to mention here isn’t the snow, but the prelude to today. You see, I remember that Yampa trip fondly, mostly because it was awful, cold, miserable, cold, snowing, cold, raining, and cold – but the students were resilient. They laughed, they played, they worked together, they stayed warm, and they warmed my cold little teacher heart. (Depicted here: https://jessicadangerlogarithm.wordpress.com/2015/04/24/april-showers-bring-may-flowers-or-so-im-told/)

For whatever reason, I was reminded of that trip this week. I remember thinking to myself that I needed to remember the lesson I learned from the students – resilience. For what? Why did I need to remember that? I didn’t know. Until today.

The world and various decisions were the perfect storm today to, once again, test student resilience. For the past few days, I’ve been with three students for a conference in Nashville, but our tiny little group didn’t have a lot of money and chose to have a more creative itinerary: drive from Rangely to Denver, fly from Denver to Memphis, rent a car from Memphis to Nashville, conference, then drive from Nashville to Atlanta, fly from Atlanta to Denver, then drive back to Rangely. Well, we got stuck in Atlanta today – we simply missed the flight. You see, the conference ended at 1AM Sunday morning, we drove straight to Atlanta, but we only arrived 45 minutes prior to the flight because I neglected to remember Atlanta is in the eastern time zone and Frontier wouldn’t let us attempt to get to the gate because ATL security is at an all-time high for wait times.

So, we’ve been up all night and we all have work or school in the morning. When can they get us on the next flight? Tomorrow at 9PM – forcing an all-night drive to Rangely so we can arrive around 6AM Tuesday morning (a drive I do all too often, but not one I particularly want to subject students to taking).

Here we are 14 hours later. Tensions are lower than they were then, but I’m still worried. So, I’m reminded of that Yampa trip. I need this to be a Yampa trip. A trip of resilience. I can see moments where they are demonstrating a mental elasticity, but I can also see moments of worry. (Leave it to honor’s students to worry about making it to a Tuesday morning exam on time.)

We managed to find housing, secure transportation, and experience Atlanta today: I took them to Piedmont Park where we laid in the grass, enjoyed the views, and watched the Dogwood Festival; we went to an amazing little breakfast place called Home Grown where the pancakes were the size of dinner plates and gave us a renewed energy; and we visited the National Park Service Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Historic site where we brushed up on our facts, visited his birth home, his father’s church, the firehouse he played basketball. I taught students how to order a soda in Georgia and explained why their breakfasts naturally came with cokes. We saw first-hand why this is called “the city in the woods.”

While I’m still insanely worried about their mental health in this situation (as no one has had a break down yet), I’ve seen smiles, overheard a sharing of stories, and been told “thank you for bringing us to the MLK site; I like things like that;” so, maybe, they’ll show me once again how strong students can be.

“So, are you quitting teaching?”

“So, are you quitting teaching?” a good friend asked me this week after I told her I wasn’t rescinding my resignation and I wasn’t applying for jobs. It was the first time since Peace Corps denied me that anyone had been so bold to simply ask if I was quitting teaching. (But, leave it to Dee to ask the tough questions!)

So, am I? I don’t know. Yes? Maybe? For now? It’s all unclear.

I was ready to, and mostly done with the process, of giving up my entire life. I gave up an apartment and a space of my own to crash with the most amazingly support friends in this Peace Corps journey (…also the ones mostly responsible for my final decision to go…). I spent months carefully plotting out who would get what things of my stuff and had already mailed many of those things that were most important to me. I found new homes for my dogs, one of which already lives there. I accepted payments from someone to buy my car. Oh, and if that wasn’t enough – I quit the job I love. I am so ready to live in whatever place the Peace Corps feels I’m fit to serve. But, that’s just it – they don’t think I am fit to serve anymore.

And so, I’m plagued with what to do when when you toil over applying to Peace Corps for years, finally do it, give up everything you have, and then don’t get in. In some sense, I’m lucky – I could do anything. I could slowly get back my life, I could settle to make a new one, I can travel around, I can do anything. Well, except the one thing I want.

So, my plague of indecision haunts me. I tried a few times to submit applications for math faculty at community colleges in amazing places, but my cover letters fell flat; I couldn’t sell my self and use flashy language about how much I wanted to be there and make a difference for their institution – because I don’t. I want to be in Ghana working with youths, teaching them math and science, and showing them my culture, and truly experiencing theirs. My heart, it isn’t here. It’s already moved to a place I’ve never been and connected to people I have yet to meet. So, when you ask me what I want to do instead – I don’t have an answer. For me, there was never an “instead” or a contingency. I was as all in as I have ever been.

I hope my heart will one day return to the same place the rest of me lives, but it hasn’t yet. It’s painfully difficult to be at a job I remember loving when I know I’m in capable of feeling that way now. I wonder if the students feel it; I think they can. And, while that makes me sad, I can’t give them all of me if my biggest drive in teaching is missing. I’ve always poured all of me into every lecture, every lesson, every assignment and assessment I can – but I can’t now. For now, I show up and give all I’ve got, even if it is no longer the same.

So, yes, I guess I’m leaving. I can’t commit to doing the job I’m doing right now for another year or cohort – it isn’t fair to them because it isn’t the best me. But it also isn’t fair to me.

And while I can hear each of you saying encouraging things through your screen, I can’t hear them. The fog that resides in that space between my ears and mind absorbs your it’ll-get-betters and your you’ll-bounce-backs.  Until that fog can lift and the path for my heart to come home can be seen, I simply cannot. And, thus, I cannot teach.

Do Or Die, It’s Friday

In the past week, I’ve dove head first back into academia – trying to pick up a thesis I haven’t opened since September 9, 2014. Why, I hear you ask, has it been so long that I’ve let a good piece of work sit in an unopened file all alone? That’s simple. I don’t want it. The harder question to answer is why don’t I want it. I think I finally have an answer – it’s associated with a lifestyle that I can’t get behind. Years ago, I lost the buy-in, then I stayed too long in a world I didn’t want, then I felt abused by that world, and I made a break for it. But, this world is always asking me back. It might be time to simply say, “no.”

So, what happened to reach this realization? Maybe it’s years of pent up anger over this system, maybe it’s a lack of coffee, or maybe it’s the conversation I have over and over again where I try to get someone to see my point of view and fail miserably due to some assumption set they have that I can’t get behind.

The endless cycle to defend my thoughts is one that wears me out – whether it’s the guy at the pub that won’t stop saying jokes that perpetuate rape culture, or the woman at the coffee shop that finds the oppression of women some safety net that shields her from the world and it’s problems, or to today when it was explaining that I’m leaving academia for the outside world – literally, outside, in the national park system.

As I said, I’ve been treading water all week to find a middle ground between dropping out of my masters and coming back full-time to this world. I’ve been trying to find a way to finish the good work that got started, but not do it a disservice to simply get it done and be done. Today, I attended mathematical biology seminar in a room that I’ve been publicly humiliated in (more than once) by PhDs that simply seem to love the life that I hate. (In my absence, by the way, the room now has a timeline poster of “Men in Mathematics” with no reference to women or the fact they might exist. PS, I want nothing more than to do research today on women in mathematics and sticky bomb the shit out of that thing.) The undergraduate student who spoke today is a phenomenal researcher and he’ll do great things in this world, but instead of looking at that positively, these PhDs attempted to break his talk down without even letting him finish – a theme I know all too well in both the mathematics and biology department. (I made sure to ask a question/give a comment that both complimented his incredible aptitude for this work and a suggestion on work to move forward.) After the talk was over, I asked an old mathematics professor for an opinion on a current snag in my thesis. It felt useless. He wouldn’t hear me out unless I interrupted his interruption. When I asked why I shouldn’t do what I’m thinking of doing (which, by the way, I know is completely out of the box), he said “my intuition,” but at least offered me an alternative. As I thanked him for his time and made my way to leave the room, he asked when I would come back again. Prior to this, I had been dodging his question all week, but today I said “I don’t know. Maybe never.” The shock on his face could have won photography contests. He stumbled over his words, but eventually asked me if I needed this project. “I don’t need any of this. Not the thesis. Not the masters. I’m giving up academia entirely.” There it was. The first time I’ve said that last bit out loud. If his legs weren’t so strong, I think he would have fallen over. He caught himself by offering a suggestion, “you’ve done some work. Why not just write it up and see if your advisor will give you a pass on the thesis?” And there it was. An attitude I cannot respect. An attitude I cannot get behind. I responded with, “I’m going to either find a way to do it right, or I’m not doing it at all.” As he left the room he said, “interesting perspective.” I guess what I meant was, I don’t need someone else to tell me what’s good and what’s not – that has been, and always will be something I decide for myself.

So, now I’m back in the biology building and in my advisor’s new lab with pages of mathematical models flooding the desk staring at the whiteboard covered in my handwriting and I just want to erase it all. This life is not for me.

Can I do the work? Absolutely. Am I smart enough to be here? No doubt it, yes. Do I have the grit to stay? Yes, no question. Is it in the best interest of my self-care? Nope. I’m worn out. I’m worn out from people barely listening to my ideas and just waiting (or in most cases, actually, not waiting at all and just interrupting me) so that they can shoot the idea down from their years of “we’ve always done it this way.” And I’m also worn out trying to explain to people that what they love makes me cringe. While there is nothing wrong with academics and its lifestyle, it is not for me – at least right now (or the past several years).

I have a mind of great ideas. I like communicating those ideas. My time here has given me the ability to execute logical thought processes and valid lines of questioning to get me where I want to go with an idea. My studies and professors have shown me how to research and find information for myself. I’ve gained the confidence to open a web browser and go down the rabbit-hole learning something entirely new – most of the time just for the sake of reading it and continued learning.

So, it’s not that I got nothing out of this or that I don’t appreciate the lessons and intangible things I took away from the academia lifestyle. I just don’t want it anymore. I want to be out in the world learning from people who never came here: learning how they think, learning how they communicate, learning what they do with their day-to-day, learning of their struggles and their triumphs. I want to live well and well-rounded. And that no longer involves being in this ivory tower only schmoozing and hobnobbing with these like-minded, academics.

What does that mean for my thesis? I don’t know yet. I know to do it rigorously, I need to know significantly more mathematics. I think I can get behind compromising rigor for completion of what’s already done. But can I compromise my nature of wanting to truly understand what’s in front of me for the sake of a finished document so that I no longer have to be here? I don’t know. Can I actually walk away from this project and from the advisors that helped me so much along the way? I don’t know, but I know I haven’t been able to do that yet. If I owe this system anything, do I owe it finishing? If I finished with a poor understanding of the project and what’s truly happening, would I be destroying that same system? Do I even care?

I just don’t have the answers. And it’s Friday. So, if I stick it my word, it’s do or die.

whatdoesthisevendo

How am I doing? I’m not.

In high school, I had an English class that had daily journals – writing assignments with directions that were both specific and vague like “develop a three page piece that has the opening line ‘the feather slowly drifted to the floor'” and the very next day our prompt was to have that same line be the end of the piece. (I wonder, in this very moment, if those assignments are what influenced me to start writing…)

Anyway, today I was perusing previous notes and one-liners in my phone from moments I felt inspired or intrigued and I came across one that I think needs to be developed. The opening line is quote belongs to an inmate in Rifle, Colorado who came up to Rangely to speak to our criminal justice class about his life, particularly the story of his (multiple) incarcerations, and what he’s learned both of himself and of the criminal justice system.

Here goes.

You put enough pressure on something, it breaks – including people’s wills. I can’t tell if I’m broken. My ability to initiate action is entirely gone, abolished, obliterated. And isn’t “initiating action” the definition of will?

How did I get here? How did I let so much pressure be put on one thing? What choices, actions, or inactions have forced me onto the bathroom floor heaving and gasping for breaths between the pangs? Why does every exhale come with a flood of tears like a dam just blown open?

The pressure comes from every angle while leaving me numb inside. I’m reminded of the dentist, where all of me is puffy and swollen and unable to truly feel but life is busy happening all around me and then a beam of light penetrates through me, turning my head away as I hear “you’ll just feel a little pressure here and there.” But its not a little pressure. It feels more than I can bear. People are constantly checking in to see if I’m “okay” today as if that would even be possible weeks from now. My mind can’t complete a single thought without feeling a surge of other, competing difficult thoughts that also can’t finish because other thoughts are springing up like a bean sprout on fast-paced time lapse coming through, fiercely uncurling to take over the world just as another comes over to take its place. It’s the cruelest predatory system I’ve ever seen going on in my head at every moment of the day. It seems that they also duel as I’m sleeping given the heavy bags under my eyes that I manage to produce even after 12 hours of what I thought might have been restful sleep. Each time a thought almost surfaces, my body physically writhes up only to be swallowed by listlessness and the process repeats.

I’ve been on this floor before. Well, not exactly this bathroom in this house, but that floor that catches you when your knees completely buckle and you crash forward and backward all at the same time from the heartbreak, or the loss, or the failure, or the indecision – but this time it all comes at once like a tsunami of my past struggles with none of the triumphs on the horizon.

There are these moments when I think my soul has been here before as if in some previous life and can help guide me through the way, but jolts of reality remind me that can’t be true and I’m frozen once more. Yet, every muscle is always tense and never given any time to rest or heal. I’m literally full of cramps and many are in places I didn’t even know could cramp.

I keep telling myself that time will tell if I’ve had enough pressure to have a broken will, but with all this happening, I think I know the answer. I’m just not ready to face it. And so, the listlessness, indecision, and inability to act continues.