As some of you know, I made the first part of Spring Break into a solo retreat at a semi-primitive cabin along the Appalachian Trail in Northern Virginia. It was wonderful. I hiked; I read; I wrote; I sat; I built fires. I deepened my relationship to quiet, to cold, to the contrast of heat against cold. I let my mind run and run, until the running became not something to chase but something to allow and appreciate, like the rush of the wind.
I also checked out of social media, email, and the news during my time there. Considering the frequency with which I check into these things during my normal life, I thought checking out would be harder. It was not. It was a relief, a much needed re-prioritization that allowed calm and creativity to emerge.
So while I’ll reengage with email and the news, I’m going to limit my social media time to a breakfast-time window and an early evening window. Not first thing in the morning or last thing at night, and not during the “normal” nine-to-five workday.
Because as some of you also know, this has been a challenging semester for me. I’ve had a lot of academic success in my life, but in the second semester of Organic Chemistry lecture I’ve found my match. I’ve found a kind of thinking that my mind doesn’t naturally do, and having taken the first half of said lecture two years ago, “rusty” doesn’t begin to describe the oxidation state of my chemistry knowledge at the semester’s outset.
So I started the semester lagging behind my cohort – made of pre-med students and future chemistry majors whose handwriting looks like goddamn Helvetica font, I swear – and unlike most classes to which I apply effort, I have not been able to catch up. I’ve earned two consecutive D’s (yes, with the curve) on the first two midsemester exams, which means that I need two C’s on the last midsem and the final to pass. Or I need to drop the class.
That decision will be made in the next few days, after consultation with the people closest to me, whose support I would need in my refocused effort. If I go for it – which of course I’m inclined to do – I will need to minimize distractions during my workdays. Which augurs for the stepping-back from social media.
And even if I drop organic chemistry, I will be happier with a less jumpy mind. As much as I find mild enjoyment in watching yet another aerial-view cooking video involving canned biscuit dough, butter, and cinnamon, there are more interesting things to notice in this life.
It can be hard for we humans to be where we are. It’s an admission of our smallness, that our spheres of control are limited, that we are both tethered and cradled by place and people and past choices.
While I love the people in my life and am engaged in interesting work, there is still a fear that niggles in the soles of my feet that I Should Be Where I’m Not. That I’m missing my calling, wasting my talents, fiddling while Rome burns, pick your turn of phrase. That being just here, just me, just a person doing a thing, isn’t good enough.
But of course, being just here and just me is the essence of good enough. It is the essence of enough. I’ve spent a lot of energy refusing enough-ness – with respect to food, money, rest, love – and I’m learning that enough-ness is just waiting to give that energy back.
So. I’m back from the woods. I am ready for next steps, and different steps, that start exactly where I am.