Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Taking a Break (LOA)

I am officially back home and unpacked.

I spent the last few days in NYC with my cousins, aunt, and grandmother who I hadn't seen in way too long. It was a good start to winter break not only because I got to spend time with people I love, but because it was actually a break.

My days were largely spent watching movies and TV shows on the couch and eating delicious food (both home-cooked and otherwise). It's been a very long time since I actually sat on a couch all day. It's not something I could do for an extended period of time anymore, or something I would choose to do if given the chance, but I think it definitely did me some good.

Part of what I aim to do in centering myself again is take care of myself better than I have been. So much has been going on that I've largely neglected healthy eating, exercise, proper sleep, etc. So isn't that what I should be focusing on?

Interestingly, allowing myself to give in completely to laziness was actually beneficial because it took me out of the hellish in-between of knowing that I should be making "healthier" choices but not having the emotional/mental resources to follow through. It gave me room to just recharge the self-control batteries away from self-imposed guilt. I even became incapable of obsessing over things like classes, self study topics, grad school, careers, or other future plans. As anybody who has spent a decent amount of time around me in the last year and a half or so knows, that's not a small thing.

Doing "nothing" for that time did give me some insight into just how easily the day to day comforts could potentially overshadow any aspirations for growth. I don't mean that life should be an endless race to aspire to and achieve more like many cultural archetypes of "success" would have us believe. When I say day to day comforts, I mean those things (like too much potentially mindless, sedentary entertainment) that can give one the illusion that things are fine all the while slowly sapping energy and vitality from the person. Like many things in life, it seems that some sort of balance is key to making sure that rest and growth (in any domain, whether physical, mental, emotional, etc.) benefit rather than hinder each other.

Now that I'm home and settled in, some of the thoughts about how I will be directing my energy in the coming months have resurfaced, but I need to remind myself to take it easy and to keep it one step at a time. As I'll very likely talk about in a future post, I have a tendency to over commit myself to very lofty and sometimes unrealistic expectations while overlooking some of my limits.

Though I won't neglect lining up some of the pieces for the rest of my time off beyond the winter break, I need to remind myself that my main objective for now is to rest, relax, and enjoy the holidays.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Why (LOA)

Well, here it is: my new personal blog.

If you haven't read my latest post on xanga and are wondering what the purpose of this blog is, here's a link to the entry that should serve as a sort of introduction.

My reasons for taking time off of school, like I mention in the xanga post, are varied and complex, but also very heavily dependent on the context. Before I go into more specifics, I think it would be valuable to look into that context a bit more.

The "context" refers to the reasons for my reasons. They're my motivations for doing what I do and what I've done, and they're the decisions I've made and the things I've learned both about the external world and myself. Without defining some of these things, it's very likely that my reasons would either not be understood or be misunderstood.

So then, what is it that I'm looking for?

In essence, I want to live well. I like to think that this isn't unique to just myself, but it's attainment or ideal often takes very different forms for different people. Here's what it means to me.

I want to be healthy; I want to have the energy and strength to engage fully with life. I want to pursue my passions. I want to be comfortable with myself. I want to be my own person, and live without the mental and emotional chains so many of us become entangled in as we grow older. I want to appreciate life in the present and in all its forms. I want to stop looking to the future for better times or looking to the past for the good old days. I want to contribute. I want to create and sustain strong connections with others. I want to pursue my endless curiosities. I want to be a positive force in the world.

Ultimately I want to find inner peace within myself. I want to find that space where, no matter how chaotic things may be, or how painful life becomes, I know who I am and I know that I am fundamentally happy. That's it. Simple.

But what if the inner voice, the one that simply wants to live, comes into conflict with the external voices claiming to know what's best? What happens when one is told exactly how to act, think, and feel in order to reach some sort of standard set by traditional or societal values without the input of the individual?

I have found that, once I lost confidence in the voice inside me and started putting the opinions of others first, I began to lose myself. The Solomon Asch experiments come to mind. In these experiments, participants were asked to match one line with another line of the same size. This is an extremely easy and trivial task, but when others (a group of "confederates", fake participants) chose the wrong answer on purpose, the real participants also chose the wrong answer over 70% of the time. These and subsequent experiments demonstrate just how powerful the pressure can be to doubt oneself if everyone else seems to be doing something a certain way. It's easier for us to lie ourselves about our discontent than to risk being too different.

The good news is that there is hope. I can't speak for everyone else, but I know that for me these pressures are largely self-inflicted. There's no one out there eager to make me fail to reach my potential and live an unfulfilled life, or telling me that I'm not good enough. I chose to believe that certain things in me were deficient and that I had to search outside myself for the answers. I also held myself to standards that were not only unrealistic, but not my own.

Again not a lot of detail here yet, but in summary this is about taking my life back. This is about moving away from those unconscious choices I made that took me away from where I want to be. It's about breaking the "chains" and overcoming the demons I've set up in my mind.

I'm glad I finally decided to do this, and excited to actually start this blog. Both the leave of absence from Cornell and the blog are ideas I'd been throwing around in my head for a long time, and now it's time to launch.