A beautiful sea cliff in San Mateo County
I have a person in my life who more than any other, keeps me sane, grounded, and in touch with myself. Interestingly enough, we are very different people. We are interested in different things, have different tastes in music, movies etc. (we take advantage of the relatively sparse overlap in taste to keep us both happy). We have separate occupations; she works and will continue to work straight out of university, while I work in the academy and plan to be a lifelong academic. I am a researcher, a theorist, I live in my head; she is practical, has common sense, and is much more outgoing than I. Yet we share a certain fundamental understanding that keeps us bonded ever strong.
We share a similar trajectory in life. We grew up in the same city, among the same people. We went to school together, and fell in love at the age of 17. Growing up in the community where we did, we had the same qualms with the world around us. We despised the ultra-conservatism, racism, homophobia, and all shades of bigotry. We hungered for a life outside that narrow minded place. I despised it more than she; she felt a kinship to the area that I lost shortly after leaving and perhaps even before. She keeps me grounded, and reminds me to appreciate our hometown for what it is. She reminds me of who I was before living in the city; I was kinder, less condescending, and overall, more carefree. She has shown remarkable patience with me and my journey towards my self. While I began to improve myself for my own reasons, she encourages me, and the changes so far have been drastic. I am learning to live as a dual person with somewhat conflicting identities. I am the liberal, environmentally conscious, and social conscious city dweller, yet I am also enraptured by the untouched wilderness, can work with my hands, and I understand the way of life of a rural community which seems diametrically opposed to city life. She stuck the balance well from the beginning, and while I initially rebelled against a fundamental part of myself, I embrace it now along with my liberal sensibilities.
Perhaps most important, is our mutual understanding of each other’s personalities, and how each other’s mind functions. We know how to deal with each other, and intimately know each other mentally on a deep level. We compliment each other in various personality traits, yet fundamentally share vital aspects in common. Her common sense and connection to the world keeps me grounded, and she helps me focus on what is truly important. Her intuition is flawless and unmatched, and I have learned to trust her in such matters.
Most telling is our mutual understanding of mental illness. We both struggle with various mood/emotional disorders, and because of our deep understanding of each other, we are able to care for the other in a very tangible and effective way. I have relied on her many times for emotional support and she has graciously given it to me. I have nothing but love and gratitude to her for all she has done. I in turn make myself available to her for anything she might need. We depend on each other in a very vital and healthy way. We bring out the best in each other and make each other extremely happy. We are honest, open, understanding, accepting of difficulty and imperfections, and overall loving of the other. My only wish is to make her as happy as she makes me. I love her dearly, and though we’ve been together for over five years, that has never waned. I thoroughly appreciate the beautiful person she is, and she appreciates the confused and passionate person I am. I could not ask for a more perfect person for me. She is my love.
I tend to find myself having interesting conversations with interesting people several times a week that really make me think and see the world in a new and exciting way. Sometimes this discussions are technical, but often they are transformative and illuminating. I had one such discussion with someone several weeks ago that has stuck in my mind.
We were discussing our respective lives and our attitudes toward various things. As such conversations go, the subject turned to human affairs and the difficulties of grappling with human emotions, love in particular. While I articulated a view that the concept of love is fraught with inherent complexities which complicate the experience and maintenance of love, she held a much more simple and intuitive view. She said to me, “love is easy, you just got to do it.” While I was focused on the external trappings of love such as distance, communication, desire etc., she was looking at love from the most fundamental vantage point. Her simple comment hit at the very heart of the issue. Instead of love being a passive noun which carries its own implications and complexities, she used love as a verb as well as a noun. Love is an expression, entity, emotion (whatever one’s conception is), but it its most raw, love is a verb; love is something you do. We have to love for there to be love. In this way, the act of loving is prior to the existence of love (in the noun sense). This simple view is profound. It takes the minutiae and social construction surrounding love, deems those details unimportant to love at its most fundamental level, and reminds us that love is something we do, not just what we have. It’s easy to love, and once we have that in sight, the complexities become minute and secondary.
Much meditation focuses on existence in the presence. The goal here is to simply live, to transcend time and exist in the exact moment of that existence. This is obviously very important, and in that state of pure existence, one feels connected to everything; the phrase “becoming one with everything” comes to mind and is a accurate way of describing the feeling. Such glimpses are, of course, temporary. We must eventually come back to our everyday existence and live life from our subjective lens. What then does “becoming one with everything” teach us? I believe this transcendence allows us to cleanse ourselves. It removes us from our stresses, our daily concerns, and allows us to see an unfiltered view of how we fit together with everything around us. Perhaps most importantly, “becoming one with everything” shows us at the same time, the significance and insignificance of our lives. We may see our consciousness as significant, we may see our place in the world as significant, yet our daily struggles and worries take on an insignificance which gives us perspective on them. I liken this experience to my own experiences climbing the East Bay Hills and looking out over the San Francisco Bay. Below me sit all my stresses. My worries seem small and far away, consumed by the mass of buildings and roads which appear dwarfed by the massiveness of the sky and water. I know that below me, the cities are buzzing with concern with their own comings and goings, but from the hills I gain perspective and peace.
Last night I noticed that the sky was clear and I could see the stars. As the weather is getting warmer in the Bay Area, the amount of fog also increases. I made a prediction to my boss that the fog would come in overnight and would linger on into the morning. I woke up at 6 AM to such thick fog, that even the nearest streetlights were seemingly surrounded by a halo of light. Thinking back on this experience, I realized that I had predicted an outcome based on past experiences. When I interrogate that thought further, I realize that I take comfort in predictability and knowing; I like to have some accurate sense of what is going to happen. I also realize now, that I need to be comfortable with not knowing, because there are somethings that cannot be predicted at all, and among those things/events that are predictable, they are only predictable to a certain degree. This unpredictability and unknowing is an essential and unnerving part of life that we must learn to live with and grow with. Accepting these uncertain elements of life strengthens us and allows us to adapt with as little stress as possible. Of course, it is not easy to accept what we cannot know. Our entire academic institutional system is prefaced on discovering what is unknown. However, I believe that if we step back and accept what is unpredictable and what we do not know, we will be happier beings who are more in touch with the ever-changing world around us.
Today I woke up early to study for a project on Southwest Native Americans and came to campus before the sun rose. I sat beneath a clock tower overlooking the San Francisco bay and closed my eyes to meditate. I was somewhat distracted by the sounds of birds, but soon I drifted off into mindfulness. Meditation calms my thoughts and keeps me grounded. I focus on breathing, and today I repeated the phrases, “kindness, compassion, gratitude, and present mindedness.” When I opened my eyes, the sun was rising and the sky had turned from black to blue. I was struck by the poetry inherent in this transformation which reflects the transformation happening in my own self. I emerged calm, optimistic, and with a clear sense of being coupled with awareness of the transformation constantly at work.
Life is beautiful; live it
Tonight I went for a brief run. I have been working out for about three weeks, and my stamina as well as my form have improved. I was mostly concerned with proper breathing and keeping my head up and forward. However, on my way back to my apartment, I turned my head to the sky. What I saw transfixed me and I paused from my run to look up the the dark blue night sky streaked with hazy clouds. The stars were vibrant, and the clouds added to a ethereal feel which struck me the moment I saw it. After a brief moment, I resumed my run.
I’ve increasingly been having these moments where my daily life peels away to reveal extraordinary beauty around me. Some things are simple, such as a waft of smell from blooming flowers, and others are more poignant, such as the night sky, or a sunset framed by the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve come to the humbling and life changing realization that one need not go to an art museum to experience true beauty. True beauty surrounds us at all times, and when we take a moment to see the beauty, no matter how simple or poignant, our lives are instantly enriched, and we begin to appreciate where we are at. When one can see the beauty in a place which has none, then the world opens up in such a profound and inspiring way.
I am a person who has reached a point where I have been able to examine my life from a new perspective. After a recent traumatic event, I emerged from my sadness to find that I was not living up to my own expectations as a person. Instead of being the kind, generous, and compassionate person I knew I was, I was instead judgmental, egotistical, arrogant, and short tempered. Those negative qualities that I had developed pushed away the people I care most about, and even worse, hurt them in ways that I still have trouble coping with. These realizations culminated in an emotional break. All that I had done, and all that I was, was made clear to me, and I was brought down with the weight of my guilt. I found a voice to open up to the people I hurt the most. I said everything I had done, every negative behavior I had noticed in myself, and with the most humble sincerity, I apologized. What happened next is something I am supremely thankful for; I was forgiven by all that I had hurt. One person in particular, whom I cared very much about yet hurt the most, especially showed me true grace, compassion, and understanding. I am thankful indeed.
While my transgressions are many, I have wholeheartedly resolved to not only atone for my past, but to release the person I used to be. My ego may have been shattered, I may have apologized and been forgiven, but that is not enough for me. I owe it to those who care about me, and to myself to become the person I know I am. Here I will discuss my journey to becoming a better person.