Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The thousand mile journey begins with...

...one small step.

Perhaps it's the natural result of taking down time. Or perhaps it's simply me, and my own neuroses, my own teeter-totter ups and downs. As soon as I state clearly and emphatically that I am not depressed, the weight of life settles in on me, and I begin to despair.

I've found myself too often of late sitting down at my computer, after dinner, and spending hours, just beside my wife, sitting down at the other computer, each of us in our own little worlds, not exactly avoiding each other, simply avoiding. It's not that we haven't taken breaks from our together solitude to spend some time enjoying each other's company, it's just that that enjoyment has been the pause, rather than the other way around.

Today, I decided, among other tasks, to look over what needs doing for my dissertation distillation article revisions. Just a few things, but each article I found online, directed me to another and another. Soon enough, I have a reading list (just for the revisions!) which I couldn't possibly attend to and address thoroughly in my revisions.

Then, I began to get down on myself, my life, my path. How can I possibly keep up with all that? I thought I had something to contribute, something worthwhile. I recognize that this despair comes of the leisure to do nothing. In reality, I don't need this. I could leave off, and begin performing again, or take up my erstwhile profession as a gardener, or open a restaurant (the au pair's personal preference), or simply take a job.

Maybe I could become a school teacher. You'd think with a Ph.D. I ought to be able to hone up on the requirements to get credentialed in short order. They might even have alternate paths for people like me, learn while on the job.

Or maybe I could go into the foreign service; I've often fancied myself a diplomat, a citizen of the world. Lord knows there's need for some intelligence in our foreign affairs. Hell, the C.I.A. even has adverts in the latest Economist. And you know, Intelligence is their middle name.

I know that this is the path I have chosen, the path of the academic. As I've written before, I've lived half of my life inside the university. I've measured time by the cycles of the school year. I don't need this. But it is my choice. As hard as that is, it's really good to know. It is the truest sign of love to recognize the dispensibility of something or someone, and yet to choose it anyway, to hold on firmly, to embrace. That's me with the academy, with the world of ideas and books, contemplations and criticism.

So, these self-doubts I recognize as part of the journey. And, I realize (in moments of quiet reflection, more rare than I'd like to admit) that this journey is a long one, that I don't need to seek the end, but merely the direction. I will always be me, whatever the world or circumstance permit me to outwardly appear. The Painter was given his name (indeed even before I had met my wife) after an individual whose life was marred by the inconstant winds of favor, who achieved both great fame and wealth, and the depths of despair and poverty. Yet, through it all, he kept true to himself, to his vision, to his path. There is a reason I chose to name my son after him. Names, I believe, are powerful omens, carrying with them, throughout our lives, their meaning and lessons to be unpacked, and repacked, again and again. I need to recall those lessons in my own life too.
...I've seen in the shadow of colorless fear
the glimpse of a rainbow, the taste of a tear.
And I've heard in an echo as faint as a moan,
a beautiful song that I'd swear was my own.
And with that, I shall end.

1 comment:

timna said...

I want to come back to think about this more, but I must pack and get out to a conference. I can't seem to take that single step and I really read what you're saying and recognize myself here. thanks for sharing.