In her famous Ted Talk on being wrong Kathryn Schulz used the metaphor of the roadrunner who, chased by the coyote, runs off a cliff and keeps on running on air until the moment he realizes he is not on solid ground. Of course at this point he finds himself too far gone, too far from the edge to turn around and has no other choice but to fall. It’s when he realized he is wrong, despite being convinced he was right. Only then does the roadrunner fall.
For months now, I have deconstructed and analyzed my pursuing a PhD with the intention of working in academia; how is it going, how is it not going, the various contradictory feelings and thoughts swirling in my head, all fueled by one single question “Was I wrong?”
The story of the roadrunner has profound meaning, not only for our individual lives but also for the current political state we find ourselves in. As I think about it, I have one nagging thought: How will anyone ever grant a PhD to someone who has to google “how to spell kayotee?!” I am referring to myself. The obsessive self-referring, self-concern, self-promotion, self-protection that we all have, day and night, even in our sleep, never ceases to the detriment of our own happiness and the future of the entire human race.
That’s not an exaggeration.
I entered a PhD program in Counseling 3 years ago with the intention to teach at a university level. At the time, I stopped writing on this blog, stopped running, stopped eating well, sleeping and basically stopped having a semi-normal human existence. Out of frustration and exhaustion, Homeless Jesus was born. I was craving meaning and purpose so much I wanted to be a homeless vegan, visit Canada, grow my own food, go on a climate march (although that came later), the list is long. I actually did some of these things. I have proof.
Except for the homeless part. I now have not one, but two peaceful, beautiful, and blessed homes and I have a feeling I will never be homeless, lonely or hungry ever again.
Was I wrong? To change my life completely in pursuit of a degree in academia? Three years later, looking forward to one more year before graduation, I have come to a conclusion.
I was painfully, utterly, and irrevocably wrong. For the past three years of my life I stubbornly denied this truth but the truth has a way of always shining through.
I viciously bullied the truth about how much I failed but at least now I can humbly accept the truth and honor it by sharing it.
Yes. I just created a paragraph that contains only one sentence. I hope that doesn’t bother you.
I was wrong to think I am a good teacher and people would respect me or get something from my teachings. I am apparently not good enough. Being likable helps. NOT being a pompous a** is essential.
I was wrong. I’m not that good of a writer. I believe there is an expiry date on blaming your poor writing on English as a Second Language. Research is harder than I thought, especially if you want to get published. Scientific rigor is no joke. You can’t take your information from any Joe Schmo on some blog on the internet!
I was wrong. I underestimated the timeline, the fierceness of competition, the jealousy, the inequality, the meaningless, petty drama, even. I have yet to process all of that but I am more interested in learning something wise from it. Like, patience is a virtue, our success depends upon the success of others, rejoicing in other’s good qualities makes our mind peaceful whereas comparison is the killer of joy, the law of karma says no action is wasted, we experience results similar to the cause, and so on. Wisdom is far more valuable than education.
I was wrong about the physical, emotional, financial and relational effects such an endeavor would have on a single woman in her 30’s with no outside support and no family to turn to on days when all she wanted to do was hide under mom’s dirty laundry (it smells extra mommy-ish in there). Not to mention, there is never enough coffee. *On a side note, I found a Greek cafe in walking distance from my house that makes excellent Turkish coffee. Of course, they call it Greek coffee and I have to remember to order it that way, but let’s face it. It is definitely Turkish, through and through.
It is difficult to look at all the things I have been wrong about and not conclude that I have failed. Jay Shetty once said “failure is just a sign that we need to widen our scope.” As luck would have it, I happen to be a great teacher in some other circles. And I enjoy it more.
Maybe the goal should be revised. Maybe there is no goal, only experiences that prepare us for our ultimate life purpose. I am sometimes arrogant enough to think that I choose my purpose. I believe we all have choice but we don’t always have an accurate view of reality or of ourselves therefore our choices are ignorant and blind.
So why get so attached to our own choice, view, personality, talents, identities, opinions, goals, dreams, plans and those of others? We could be very wrong. We do not need to grasp at any man-made reality because we can rest assured we are not capable of seeing all the intricacies of luck, chance, intention, causes, conditions, consequences, opportunity, timing, and so on.
I know I’m right about this. Fantastically right.
The key to our happiness and the happiness of others is letting go and opening ourselves up to whatever comes next, embracing everything fully, no matter what.
Everything that appears, positive or negative, can be an opportunity to become a better person. Maybe becoming the best you can be is a good enough goal. Maybe better than good enough; the ultimate goal.
May is Mental Health month. Yesterday was Mental health Blog Party Day. I know, I know, where is mine? I think I liked reading more and wouldn’t mind sitting this one out. Here are my favorite blogs from Mental Health Blog Party
Faith, Art and Farming: The Different Child – “ADHD is a fact. Some see it as a crock-of-bull and those espousing it pitiful, sympathy seekers. ”
Into the Bardo: Cave of Forgotten Dreams – “Even more stunning and mysterious to me are the curious red handprints left by one of the early artists announcing a very human presence and the human impulse to make art. Although clearly there were previous artists who left their impressions and commentary on life in charcoal and stone scrapings, these ambiguous red imprints left me wondering about these early artists’ musings about the relationship between the making of art and the sacred.’
Tales of a Shooting Start: The reality of Me – “Yes, depression has become (disturbingly?) common enough of a diagnosis that it seems to get less of a raised eyebrow from others when they find out that you suffer from it. Bipolar disorder, though? Or other disorders, like schizophrenia or suicidal depression? They all still seem to draw untoward attention, along with that look like there is something seriously wrong with you that might be contagious.”
Contemplations: Mental Health Matters – “I like to remind myself and others that the human mind is extremely fragile. The sticks and stones saying isn’t true. Words hurt. Be kind to others, you never know how badly your words might hurt someone.”
Clinical Forensic Psychology : Prison and Correctional Psychologists Needed to meet the Demands of our Incarcerated Populations – “In the last few decades, the number of incarcerated individuals with severe mental illness has increased so significantly that prisons may now be the largest mental health providers in the United States.”
Mental Health For Everyone: Self-compassion and letting go of judging ourselves – “So please, when times are rough, have compassion for yourself, and take note of all of the people who surround that can support you. Whether its a family member, friend, pastor, therapist, or a significant other – anyone (for the most part) can provide support, you simply have to ask for it.”
About.com: Addictions – The Poor Relative of Mental Health: “So unless we start treating people with addiction with the compassion they deserve, every other mental health problem is going to get worse — from depression overshadowing the lives of people with alcohol problems and internet addicts, to teens experimenting with marijuana being triggered into psychosis, to women starving themselves to appear thin, and getting hooked on meth or cocaine or exercise to assist in weight loss, while an alarming number of Americans are overeating to the point of obesity and health problems, sugar-addicted kids becoming violent in adulthood, and shopping and gambling addicts plunge into crippling debt. ”
Psychcentral: Excavating Your Mental health and finding buried treasure – “Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find you’re not in this mental health thing alone. For connections to other people in your life really matter. In our western world, where we like to embrace the ‘cult of individualism,’ it can seem like we’re all making our own solitary way through life – or that we’re all personally responsible for our pain and ‘failures’.”
This is part of 2011 Mental Health Blog Party
Which ones did you like?