Monday, April 24, 2006

Switching Gears

This weekend I had the kind of experience that forced me to stop for a moment. I was lying on the couch and had just finished the last paragraph of a book I'd been trying to get through for months. It was a sunny day outside, and warm - the kind of day that, in another lifetime, I might have spent tossing a frisbee or hitting golf balls around for free because I hadn't anything else to do that day. Or just lying in the grass; like many things in life, there is nothing even roughly comparable to the feeling of lying quietly on soft grass and watching the clouds pass by above. At any rate, when I stood up and looked outside, I realized that this was a day on which I had nothing pressing, nothing that absolutely had to be done (if, perhaps, plenty that could have been), and time all to myself. And for the next three hours after my epiphany, I paced around the apartment, anxious for something productive to do.

What an amazing thing it was to see myself in such a state: I had become so used to frenetic activity, both at work and at home, that when I found myself with some time to relax I almost didn't want it. I think perhaps that's why Americans often take weeklong vacations - it takes many of us several days to actually remember how to relax again.

In the same vein, it took me a long time, probably a year or so, to become accustomed to the notion of constantly working to maintain my life. Previously, I had no such worries - financially, I was yet to set out on my own from my parents, and every other aspect of personal maintenance took a backseat to what I found of far greater importance: enjoyment of my own life. That particular pesudo-hedonistic outlook was enjoyable for a while, of course, but in its own right eventually became tedious. At the end of college I was both looking forward to taking additional responsibility on myself and dreading it with every fiber of my being. Those worries were assuaged by another, more pressing desire to find a way to spend my life with my fiancee, however, and when I had accomplished that I began to simply learn how to function in my new life. I adjusted, I adapted - I've found I'm quite good at that, for what it's worth.

Now, I find myself at another such crossing of ways: my last post was about rejection and all its gloomy facets; this one, in part, is about acceptance and all that comes attached with it, as well. The funny thing about rejection is that there is a sense of relief about an outright rejection: a shrugging-off, a shedding of possibility - those things that are barely tangible to someone who has just been rejected, but become more palpable as time heals some of the lighter wounds. Acceptance, on the other hand, brings adrenaline and the feeling of flight and freedom with the knowledge that you are part of something more than yourself, along with the possibility that you will also become something more through this union. It also brings responsibility and new anxieties: as a part of something new, you now have a part of the bargain to keep yourself.

Change inevitably means both of those things will be a part of your life: you will have to reject an old life, an old way of thinking, that probably had plenty of things you liked about it. I will never be satisfied working in front of a computer punching numbers all day, but while I was at my job I felt secure and safe, able to have many of the things at a whim which I could never have afforded previously. Giving all of that up, now, in exchange for relative poverty an intellectual challenge on a scale I've yet to experience was not as easy as I believed, naively, that it would be. And right about now, when I look about myself and notice where I am, just about turn toward something entirely different, I'm feeling nostalgic for all of the lives I've left behind and all the good things I've given up for where I am now. People find it very hard, sometimes, to switch gears.

But it's an immense relief to think of those things and instantly know that I am where I want to be, and will be going where I want to go, however I get there. It's a relief to think that the baggage I'm picking up with graduate school is what I'm most comfortable carrying, and that I believe I can carry it to where I want to go. And it's a relief that someone is going with me, albeit on her own road.

Acceptance is a fine thing, indeed - and perhaps I will yet become more than I am.