Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday - Spring 2009

Wednesday, at least for this semester, is something of a “me” day. Not that I am somehow entitled to my very own day of the week, it has just turned out that my schedule is such that I have been graced with a semester full of Wednesdays to do with as I please. That is not, however, as liberating as it sounds. I still have numerous responsibilities – school and otherwise, but mostly school – that need to be prioritized. Wednesday is like a bucket that I can throw a great many of those tasks into. It’s a safety valve and one that has increasing utility as the semester winds to an end.

Although it is true that I have no scheduled classes on Friday, Saturday or Sunday either, those days (or at the very least, large sections of them) do tend to get filled with other obligations – some decidedly social, but obligations all the same. I cannot count on several uninterrupted hours to do with as I choose like I can on Wednesday. Often that choice is no choice at all, indeed, this is not free time in that sense. But I am free to stay home, or not, and I am free from outside distractions (although avoiding internal distraction is always an issue - writing this is an apt illustration). In a very real sense, Wednesday is my “work from home” day.

It sounds nice and most of the time it is, but staying focused on anything for any sustained period of time has always been difficult. True, I have my house to myself and also true, it can be as quiet as I want it to be, but there are myriad things to do that can and do take me away from what I should be doing. It is often necessary to extricate my research and myself and go elsewhere; to the library, a coffee shop, a park, anywhere other than here. If I am alone with only my work, it leaves me nothing else to do.

There was a period of time in my life where exercising at the gym was a regular routine. On several occasions, I decided to save myself the cost of the membership and instead spend the money on home exercising equipment. Without fail I would discover that, for me, the problem with “home exercising equipment” is the first word – home. Although dragging myself to the gym was often the hardest part of working out, once there I was able to go about the business of exercise – there is nothing else to do there. I apply the same technique for when I find myself too distracted to concentrate on the task at hand, wherever that happens to be.

I have not run into that issue yet today. This particular Wednesday, so far, has yielded some completed work. It’s not done yet, however, and it is painfully obvious that I am not working on it right now. But if history holds any insight, this little exercise of expression will serve to refocus my efforts on the task at hand, it will have satisfied my desire to wander. If not, my car is in the driveway, or even better, my Harley is in the garage… both are gassed up and ready to go – just in case I am not.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Effort and Reward

I am not one of those guys who just loves to work. I know people like that, people who are happiest when they are doing something. Not me. If I had my way, I’d choose a life free from responsibility – a life of complete, decadent and endless leisure. I was so committed, albeit unconsciously, to this pursuit that I would often work harder at avoiding work than it would have taken to just do it. But even if the option were before me (and it’s not), a life of leisure would not be a successful one. It is a dubious luxury. It is one of life’s little paradoxes and one that it took quite some time for me to understand.

There is no such thing as something for nothing, and I don’t care who you are. Those who have unearned wealth sufficient to provide that "idyllic" life I just portrayed cannot feel any satisfaction from being nothing more than a consumer. I know many claim to be perfectly content with nothing more to do than spend money, but they are either lying or do not know the kind of satisfaction that working towards and achieving a goal can bring. As much as I am still not motivated to put forth any effort, I am extremely motivated by the rewards that come from the effort.

Wealth does not necessarily come in the form of money, although earned income is certainly one way of measuring success. But there are so many things that cannot be bought at any price. From the setting of and completing goals comes an inner satisfaction that is derived from knowing the effort came from me… nobody sells that. And with it comes a new set of goals and new challenges that could not be considered before prior goals have been attained. Completing my BA was the most recent, but even as I work toward my Master’s and beyond, indicators of forward progress abound.

It was a grueling week at school. A ton of work was required prior to class tonight and combined with my responsibility to my own students, I was under stress similar to what the end of a semester brings. Every time I contemplated the mountain of work I had in front of me, I wanted to turn the other way. I am not one of those guys who loves to work. But I am one of those guys who loves the feeling of coming out the other side and tonight I am feeling exactly that. The week has come to an end - what needed to be done got done.

And I did it.

Monday, March 09, 2009

On Journeys and Destinations

I have been experiencing something of a dry spell. Although there is much to say, the words are not forthcoming. It’s not as though my experiences are any less profound; it’s just that I feel like I’ve already said it. But that’s not it either. Life has been good, it’s been challenging… but at the same time, it feels just a little bit stagnant. It’s not, but it feels that way. And that is a perceptional issue to be sure. Everything is, really, for in the grander scheme of things, the world is always the same.

I have been known to say that the difference between what my life is today and the regular misery it once was is my perception of it. My life has indeed improved in ways I never even dreamed possible, and that is in fact a change in my world – real change – but it started with a new perception. It took some time, but slowly optimism replaced pessimism, positive energy begat positive energy and the physical elements that define my reality started to change. I am no longer a victim.

And as much as the material things in my life make it more comfortable, they are not responsible for the peace I experience. These are not irregular, widely scattered moments of peace, it is the norm; it is an overarching serenity that I feel all of the time. It would exist even if those “things” were to suddenly disappear. I used to seek for things external to create what I thought would constitute happiness. If only I had enough money to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it… If only I had that perfect mate… the prestige… whatever it was, but I never dreamt it could be found within me.

But that is where it was all along. In retrospect, it makes so much sense. Of course it was - it had to be. What I enjoy today more than anything else is who I am. It’s not so much that I didn’t like myself before (although, that was certainly true to an extent), but more that I didn’t really know who I was. Oh, sure, I have accomplished some things, experienced many others and, looking back, I can find enormous value in that experience. But I was coasting through life with blinders on, never having a true sense of where I was going – or when I would get there.

The irony in that perspective is twofold: First, I still do not know where I am going and secondly, I never will arrive there anyway. The difference between then and now is perspective. Although it is true that I am not sure where this little journey will turn next, the fact remains that I am moving, with determination and fortitude. The path I have traveled for the past five or so years has seen my efforts rewarded with that inner satisfaction that money could never buy. As far as a destination is concerned, well, if I arrive, doesn’t that mean I’m done? Not interested, this ride is exciting like none other – I am all in.

When I re-entered college after so many years of chipping a little here and a little there, my goal was simply to gain an AA degree at the local community collage. I never did get that AA, opting instead to transfer to California State University, Sacramento to earn a BA in journalism. I didn’t get that either, deciding instead to change my major to government-journalism (a quasi dual major combining political science with journalism) so that I could distinguish myself in the world of journalists. Although I did achieve that degree and I did work as a journalist for a short time, my appetite for education was not quenched. Not even close.

My decision to return to school to earn my Master’s degree at 45 years-old was spawned by the fulfillment academia gave me. A Master’s would qualify me to return as a professor in a community college. That is still more than a possibility - it is the plan. But I still have some time before completing my Master’s. And that was going to be enough. However, there are higher levels of achievement that are looking more and more enticing. I have spoken about it, I am seriously considering it, and now I am writing it. It looks like the pursuit of a Ph.D. is not even a remote possibility - it is likely.

Five years ago, it was an impossibility, I couldn’t even see myself wanting it. The difference today is (and always was) perception.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Just write.

This is what I tell anyone who is having trouble getting something started. For me it is often a nagging feeling of something inside that wants to come out. Sometimes it is that and nothing more; it’s just a feeling, nothing specific. Other times it springs from the residual thoughts of one or many ideas I wish to expand on, or maybe to clarify. Occasionally it is a sense of obligation – a fulfillment of purpose, the continuation of a sacred task that I am here to complete. Then there are those instances like this one where it is all of the above.

This blog is, in some respects, my journal… a diary, as it were. Although I don’t address it in the second person as if it was some kind of alter ego, this has been an ongoing dialogue that recounts my thoughts, told through my experience – my human experience. I don’t use it to recount the ins and outs of my daily life, but rather as a microscope to examine various aspects of it and what, if anything, that reveals. It is a never-ending endeavor and one that has sustained itself longer than most of the projects I have undertaken in my life.

Just write.

And then I’ll hit these little roadblocks. I don’t like to delete what has already been written (and I have written about this before), but after composing most of a paragraph, it was painfully obvious that it was going nowhere. These words replaced those and at this point, I’m not sure if these will live either. This is frustration. I want more than just carefully composed prose; my desire is for more than just clever insight; there is something on the tip of my mind and I can’t seem to coax it out.

Just write.

This is my preferred means of expression. It is my art. The best way I have found of expressing that which makes me me is through the written word and right now, all the colors are grey. I can’t seem to render the vivid greens, the vibrant yellows, the radiant reds or the iridescent blues; my palette is empty. Yet the image is there, or at least the formative essence of it is. But it will have to wait for another time, for although I have expressed the frustration of an artist lost, I really haven’t said anything.

But that is something.