In yoga tonight, J asked us to think about our roots. She asked us what is fundamentally at the core of who we are. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately for a couple reasons. Some of what I went through this summer caused me to call my chosen profession in the academic world into question. And spending the summer in my hometown in Colorado caused me to call my future place of residence into question.
I am someone who depends on certainty, even when it doesn’t exist. I manufacture it. I proclaim it constantly. When I am wrong about something of which I was certain, I have a hard time reconciling my convictions with reality. I have a hard time admitting I could possibly have been wrong. And then, when I do finally admit I was wrong, I lose all faith in everything. Temporarily. I live in extremes. I have spent the past few years trying to work myself into gray areas, but so far that’s really just manifested itself in my compiling a mostly gray wardrobe. It’s getting better, but it’s a process.
I have always been certain that I want to be in academia. I have also, for the last two years, been certain that I want to spend the rest of my life in Los Angeles. We’ve talked about this before. You know this about me. But after this summer, I fell out of love with academia and in love with Colorado all over again, and it sent me into a tailspin of self doubt and confusion. Fortunately, this wasn’t necessarily an uncomfortable tailspin because I was so enjoying my time in Colorado and loved talking to friends about non-academic career possibilities. But it was unsettling. And for the past several weeks I’ve been trying to determine exactly what it is that is at the root of who I am.
Tonight, the word that kept coming to me with every breath, every movement, was love. Love is what is at the root of me. Love is what defines me. Or, more specifically, my capacity to love, my desire to love, my ability to give all of myself and more to my friends, my family, my communities, my students, my lovers. I love so deeply, I often feel I can’t act in ways that satisfy my loving impulses. If it sounds like I’m being self-congratulatory, know that I am not. Part of me views this root, this love, as a blessing, because it allows me to deeply feel for and connect to others. But most of me views this root as problematic because it makes me vulnerable to the immense amount of pain I’ve felt in my life. I have always loved too much. I have always given too much. I am always the one in the relationship who fights harder, does more, gives everything, even when I shouldn’t. Sometimes in my friendships, this effort is reciprocal. Often it is not. That is ok. I am perfectly content to be loved by my friends in whatever way they love me, and that love of theirs is often astounding to me, because I have such incredible people in my life who are my everything. But when it comes to loving a significant other, I find myself in a mess. Though I suppose I haven’t always chosen the most open, most committed of partners. In fact, I tend to choose the opposite. Because as deeply as I love others, I also value my freedom, am terrified of being vulnerable, am terrified of loss, and choose to go after people with whom I immediately feel a distance that I want to bridge with my love, but who I also want to be able to run from when I get that desert feeling inside.
[A note on vulnerability: often my friends and family tell me I am too open about things in my life, that I over share. I agree. I’m not sure what that impulse is in me, but I also don’t care enough to examine it. I have never suffered from over sharing. Or at least not that I’m aware of. Because I don’t think over sharing is an act of vulnerability. If anything, I think it is the opposite. It is a lot of, look at all my feelings so I can carefully hide certain other feelings, even from myself. I will be vulnerable here, in words, on the internet, and it feels safe because I don’t know who reads this. I will be vulnerable in conversation, even with strangers, because I don’t know how not to be. I cannot stand in front of you and do and say nothing, though. I cannot be that. I cannot stand in front of you and ask you to love me. Never.]
My point is, I discovered tonight that my root is love. I have other roots. Stubbornness. Curiosity. Neuroses. Anxiety. Excitability. Hopefulness. Loyalty. Skepticism. But love is the root that most defines a lot of other aspects of my life. My friendships, my chosen profession, my attachments to the places where I have spent time. After I returned from Colorado, I synthesized a lot of my thoughts and conversations and I have come to the following conclusions about myself, my roots: In my inner most self, I am a teacher. Teaching is the most important thing to me. Not, like, in a general way. In a very specific way. In the way that I do it now, and in the way that I intend to do it for the rest of my life, in whatever capacity I am able. Even if I leave academia, I will do so to teach. In my inner most self I am also a lover. My roots are in Colorado, but that doesn’t have to be where I end up. It just has to be a place where I spend a lot of time, again, in whatever capacity I am able. Los Angeles, too. I would like to be certain about all of this.
I’ve been writing a lot of rambling posts this month. I think it’s because I’ve been asking myself so many questions, and in writing, I work toward some answers. Not an answer, because I don’t think there is one. But answers that make me feel calmer, more resolved, more certain, but also less stubborn about that certainty.