One day when I was sixteen years old, I found myself home alone. For no reason in particular I decided to stare at myself in the bathroom mirror. I sat on the sink’s edge and stared into my eyes because I believe that eyes are windows through which you can see the true nature of a person.
After a long time of staring into my eyes something happened. Dissociation occurred. I was looking upon myself with a new perspective. The best way to describe it would be a third person point of view or an outside point of view. Whichever makes this confusing description less so. In that moment of disconnect I saw something I will never forget. There was a darkness resting behind my eyes. It was alive. It was powerful. It held them.
My own personal demons. I could see them. I could see the facets of my character which drove me. Right then I could identify why I am the sort of person to always take one more step forward. Why I do not settle. Why I do not quit. It is because… I can’t. My soul is the slave and my demons are the whip.
My demons have ruled my entire life. In high school I had practice conversations with myself about what I would say to girls because I wanted to be liked so badly. At track practice I would run myself to exhaustion because I was afraid that I would not be the best. I attempt to memorize textbook passages verbatim when I study because I feel pressure to perpetuate the idea that I am intelligent. Every single night I toss and turn because my mind is fighting the doubt that says my dream future will not come true.
It all sounds… crazy? Ridiculous? Silly? I am married so I must be doing something right when it comes to women. Never won anything but my athletic improvement curve wasn’t too shabby. I am an intelligent person. Haven’t I achieved nearly every goal I set for myself? Ya.
What makes you the way you are? How did you end up this way? Can you define your demons?
It has been so long that I have forgotten how this all works. Took me about ten minutes just to remember which email address I used for my login. It’s going on 2 a.m. Can’t sleep. Well, I’m sure I could fall asleep if I truly wanted but… something inside me is not ready for dreamland just yet. I have spent the last few hours reading. I dug out some old journals from high school. Some of that work was certainly cringe worthy but I did discover a few old gems. Then it was on to the old Tumblr archive. One word springs to mind:
I will give myself a quick pat on the back and say I wrote some quality stuff. What really hit me though was the content of what I wrote. I am deeply private but for whatever reason I bared my soul for anyone to read. I say ‘for whatever reason’ but I know the reason. It felt… good. There is an undeniable catharsis in honest self-expression. This blog helped to anchor me in a very stressful time in my life. College was a rush. A constant rush. In many ways my life could still be summed up with that word.
Webster tells me that a rush is a quick movement toward something. I am definitely moving, but toward what? Where will the current leave me? I would like to think I am headed toward life. My life. I would like to think I am headed toward the vision of my life that is responsible for these sleepless nights. I walked away from what many would call a “guarantee”. One does not lightly turn down the title of ‘Doctor’ but it had to be done. Now, my eyes have shifted to a new horizon. The past few weeks have been spent setting the new cogs in motion.
These recent life changes have left me exhausted and exhilarated. But, I suppose that is just the way of things. From one current to the next. Always, the rush.
I just had one of those moments where, for whatever reason, I experienced a complete perspective switch and I was staring at my life from a third person view. I was watching myself hop into my Kia Sportage and head off to H-E-B, a Texas grocery chain, to grab some dinner. The whole situation felt so alien. I saw myself park in the lot and while walking up to the front doors I thought, “Damn, it’s humid in Texas. Im in Texas. How did I get here?”
“How did I get here?”
Of course, I know how I got here. I applied to school, got in, drove halfway across the country with my fiancé. That, is how I got to Texas. It’s been close to a full year now but my old life seems… almost like it never happened. I’ve got t-shirts that say UNCW on them and I can go on facebook and see someone that looks like me in a uniform running around a track but… sometimes, it doesn’t feel like that was ever my life. I left all of it. Well, all of it but my fiancé.
I’ve moved around plenty so I am not an incredibly sentimental person but damnit, I loved college. I loved my college life. I loved the people in that life. I am not going to romanticize the past. It was not all great but that is fine. I did not need my life to be perfect. It was… well, it just… was. It was mine. Those four years, they mean(nt) a lot to me. And they are gone.
I am perfectly happy with my life now. In many ways it is better than my old life. So… why the nostalgia? Why the homesick feelings? I think it’s because, even though I have moved to a different place and am continuing to grow, the place I left was a place I wanted to be.
For me, both sides of the fence had perfectly green grass. The fact that I can say that is a blessing. Still, it stings being able to look back upon that past knowing that time only flows in one direction.
It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson on the Declaration of Independence and the part about our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And I remember thinking how did he know to put the pursuit part in there? That maybe happiness is something that we can only pursue and maybe we can actually never have it. No matter what. How did he know that?
-Christopher Gardner (Pursuit of Happyness)
I do not hold many beliefs but I will stand by the ones I do have until the day I die. The most fundamental belief I hold is this:
Every person on this planet has the right to do whatever it is that makes them happy so long as that person is not infringing upon another’s right to be happy.
The amount of time allotted to us as humans is finite. Time is the ultimate currency. How much time are you willing to spend at work to make money? How much time are you willing to spend with another person to develop a relationship? How much time are you willing to spend taking chances in order to realize your dreams?
There seems to be an idea that we as humans do not have much say in how we spend our time.
“I have to do this. I have to do that.”
“I mean, I don’t want to but… I just have to. You know how it is.”
In my sophomore year of college I made the decision that I was going to do whatever I had to in order to ensure that I would be happy. I figured out what I wanted out of my life and researched how to achieve my goals. Fast forward three years. I am happy. I wake up smiling every day. I am doing exactly what I want.
No, it was not easy. Yes, there were many times during those three years when I was unhappy. To me, I found that an acceptable sacrifice. I dislike the phrase but for those three years I was “on the grind”. I took control of my life and whenever I had a moment of weakness. Whenever I thought the weight on my shoulders was going to break me, I latched on to one thought.
I refuse to fail. I refuse to quit. I refuse to be unhappy. I refuse to live my life on someone else’s terms.
We live in a country that preaches tolerance but quite often practices the opposite. It is not so much “live and let live” but “live in a way that I approve of and I will let you live peacefully”. The latter notion has caused me quite a bit of grief through the years. People will always attempt to steer your path and tweak your dreams. I have been amazed not just at the bold statements but also actions that I have witnessed people take to “help” others. I do not put up with that crap and neither should you.
“These are my dreams. I’m going to pursue them. If you don’t like it… bye.”
Is life that simple? Ya, I think it is.
It has been a long time since I’ve updated this blog. Reason being, I’m rather busy these days. I do not know if this post in particular will have any sort of “wow” factor or really be that interesting. Long day, just trying to write to relieve stress.
So, this grad school thing. Well, I should probably preface this post by saying I’m enjoying myself and that Texas A&M is meeting expectations. Anyway, back to grad school. If I had to describe it to someone…
Back in my student athlete days I was always busy but I was not always working. During my undergad years I was given plenty to do but most of it was just a waste of time or required little mental energy on my part. So while there may have been stuff to turn in or a test to study for the general mental cost was low. I was able to take back-to-back semesters of 20 credit hour semesters and rack up A’s. This while training and competing. I’m a smart guy but let’s be real. Shit just wasn’t that hard.
Let’s fast-forward to graduate school. I have half as many classes as I did in undergrad and only half of these current classes require me to put in effort. Turns out, that’s about all I can really deal with right now. Not only do I have class but I have laboratory responsibility as well.
[RANT] Being a GA is not the easiest thing. I know some people are of the opinion that because I’m doing “cool” things that I’m interested in that somehow I’m not really working like the rest of the 9-5 people. Ya… if you think that you can go fuck yourself. I’m not trying to be an asshole about it but it really does piss me off when I hear someone disregard what I do every day. I work with very expensive equipment and if I make mistakes I can not only cost this department a lot of money but also hurt the reputation of the research done by collecting crap data. Plus, I’m not just pushing buttons, I then have to interpret that data and understand the physiological significance. Don’t get me started on the statistics that accompany the data collection. [/RANT]
Where was I? Right. As I mentioned, class ain’t easy. I just took a test last week and if I didn’t know all of the material it would have been impossible to do well on the test. Not complaining about that. I expect to be tested. It’s just that the time commitment necessary to obtain the level of understanding is high. During the day I’m running exercise tests, being trained, completing assignments for my advisor, going to class, and trying to fit in a workout schedule. Then you study. Then you can relax. Then you can eat. (ya, I prioritize exercise over relaxation) Did I mention making sure I don’t dive headfirst into my studies so as to give my fiancé the time she deserves (yes, that seems like a no brainer but if you know me you know my obsessive personality).
Grad school is one thing after another. Work never ends. If I’ve got free time I should probably be studying for a test or reading a research article or practicing how to run tests or… you get the picture. Never before have I been challenged and stimulated like this. Despite what the above words may imply I’m not really that stressed out. I was made to work hard. I just feel it important (for my own mental health) to acknowledge that I will be working hard for a very long time. This is not a sprint. Thankfully I haven’t said yes to every single opportunity thrown my way or I would be overwhelmed. On the same token, I always carry caffeine pills with me because sometimes I don’t have the motivation to dig in and grind out an assignment.
Each day I try to find the balance. By focusing on my goals and having a vision of the future I know I will be successful. It is not easy. I feel no reason to lie about that. For anyone who reads this that wants to be a grad student understand that undergrad was the warm-up. If you are not willing to work, do not apply. But, if you have the passion. If you have the desire to learn more, go for it. I promise you won’t be disappointed if you end up in a good program.