I don’t know if other professions talk about their work or communities “feeding them.” Higher ed is definitely a strange place and not typical of many other contexts, so it’s hard to know what is “normal.” Awhile back, I saw a fairly well known scholar-educator post about their job not being one that “fed” them, and they felt like it was suffocating them if anything. The post didn’t say specifically (vaguebooking anyone?) about what they were talking about, but I can think of a million possible examples or scenarios from others’ situations. My response, though, was “huh, that’s a weird thing to expect.” Without getting into the politics of my own specific position or context, I have accepted that my job isn’t going to be what keeps me afloat emotionally. Even as a high school teacher, I snarled at the oft-quoted “teaching is the hardest job you’ll love” or some other derivative dribble. Teaching IS hard, and it IS rewarding, but if you expect that to be your sole sense of purpose and meaning in life, you will burn out faster than a Roman candle. I wish someone had told me that earlier…
I am not saying that you can’t find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment in your work. I definitely do. But I also don’t expect my work to be the only place where I get that, or even my main source of those things. And while that may seem obvious to some, it’s taken awhile for me to figure that out. I think one of the reasons I was so miserable in my 20’s was that I couldn’t figure out what I needed emotionally, spiritually, psychically, so I expected work or friendships to be the only place I would find validation. As I’ve gotten older, my priorities and understandings of the world have shifted through marriage, kids, running, adult jobs, etc. And I’ve realized that no one place can be my sole source of nurturing or cultivating of self.
Maybe that’s obvious for some, but that’s some hard-fought knowledge for me. Just as my life-long battles with managing depression happen through many ways–prayer, exercise, medication, therapy, community–I’ve realized that finding happiness in life has to happen through many ways. JUST surviving or NOT being miserable is NOT the same thing as actually seeking happiness and comfort. It’s not merely enough to not be suffering, but you also have to find ways to “suck the marrow out of life” (a la Whitman). And that will change throughout your life, which is why it can feel like a balancing act. Just when you think you’ve got it, another piece shifts and you have to reconfigure the whole thing.
Even though the trip to Boston was a whirlwind around the marathon, I was really happy to see and stay with my friend Swati. I can’t even begin to catalog the myriad things she’s gone through in the 8 years I’ve known her. But through it all, she is constantly on a journey to be balanced, to be happy, and to seek ways to be spiritually and emotionally positive. We talked a lot about what’s been going on in our lives–she just finished her doctorate, woohoo!!–and it made me reflective of how we have a choice in how we react or respond to various situations. Obviously we can’t control others or control the situations we sometimes find ourselves in, but we can choose how we react. And sometimes we have the choice to extract ourselves or disengage as well. But first, we have to recognize and acknowledge what our situation is and what our choices are.
Even in terms of my running, when I was beginning to feel disenchanted with all the speedwork and the demands of qualifying for Boston, I chose to start running types of areas and get out on the trails. I’ve loved how running has taken me to places I normally wouldn’t have gone. Case in point, down the street from Swati’s place is Forest Hills Cemetery. There are a number of famous people buried here, the most literary relevant being e.e. cummings. Sadly, I did not realize this until after my run so missed visiting his grave, but Mr. UnRunner did see it. It is a huge cemetery, with a mix of both old and new grave sites, and they day was crazy warm and bright.
I’ve always found the very fancy statue tomb stones (is that what they’re called??) intriguing. I loved the pose of the woman on this one.
I loved the idea of this one. This was a tomb stone (I’m just going to keep calling it that because I don’t know what else to call it) that had a very large birdhouse built onto the top of that. Even in death, you can continue to be a source of life 🙂
There was a section where a large number of Chinese were buried. There were even some families celebrating/holding a memorial at some of them. Burning incense, eating, meeting as a large group, etc. There was one group of plots that obviously belonged to an entire family. These Chinese dragons marked the entrance to that section.
And there was even this gorgeous water feature sent on the side of the cemetery.
I’ve been wrestling with the post-race blues, or maybe just the blues who knows, so I decided to try a new running route. I’ve been meaning to head south on the Centennial Trail by the I & M canal near work, and I finally did it the other day.
This area/trail is a very odd conglomeration of heavy industry and nature, as you might be able to see in the picture below (on the far right edge of the picture are a series of smoke stacks belonging, I think, to a petroleum processing plant).
The path itself is a pretty straight crushed limestone path that runs parallel to a rail line hidden by bushes. There were some pretty features along the path, though, including this fireplace/structure thing.
The path runs between two parts of the canal. To the right (or west of the canal) is the rail lines I spoke of and some industrial buildings set way back behind tree cover. To the left was some kind of excavation site. I saw bulldozers and earth movers at various points, and I know that it wasn’t public land. This was a particularly pretty spot and there was an even a snowy egret but my clumsy feet made too much noise and scared it off. If you look towards the back of the picture, though, you can see some kind of yellow metal barricade from the site.
The children are rumbling so it’s time to get the day started. Hope your running adventures take you somewhere new today, and you find ways to feed yourself emotinally!