As many of you know, the past four years have been a whirlwind roller coaster ride that has brought as much happiness (Montana) as it has sadness and frustration (Princeton, the Ph.D. and my current work).Throughout my childhood and into my early adulthood, I would wake up each morning and say, "Okay, universe, my life is yours. Do with me what you need to. Put me where you need me. I'm ready to serve." And, the most magical things would happen when I lived like that - I got scholarships to Ivy League schools, job offers without applying anywhere, free hair cuts/color, etc... It was amazing and magical. My family joked that it was as if I had a direct phone line to God.
The reason why I believe this level of flow happened for me (and why I believe it can happen to others) is that in all I trusted what was happening in the moment, was grateful for the outcome before I knew it, and had faith that I would land where I was needed.
Then Princeton happened.
I was accepted with a full tuition scholarship and given a generous living stipend, money for language classes, overseas travel, a camera, etc... It was like hitting the academic jackpot...something to the tune of a quarter of a million dollars just to sit and learn AND I didn't have to pay a dime. The doors to the school opened so fast and it felt so right that I just walked through them, trusting that Princeton was where I was needed and that all would be right as rain.
But, it wasn't.
It was hellish. I had trouble with my advisor, my romantic relationship was crumbling, my studies suffered, and I couldn't seem to do anything right, much less pass a language exam (took me three time to pass both my Italian and German exams) and in my second year, it felt like I was being pushed from the program even though I was well-liked and in excellent standing. It didn't make sense. In fact, it still doesn't. I have no idea what those two years were about -- and I chose to leave with my soul intact rather than prostitute myself for a degree which felt hostile and required me to jump through more hoops than I was willing.
The thing is that when Princeton began to fall apart and grew hostile, I wanted to sit down with the universe/God and say, "What?!!! You bring me here and now you're pushing me to leave??? What is this all about?" This shook my faith and my very identity to the core because I had engineered my whole life to reach the Ph.D. and there I was, at the very best program in the country, on a full-ride, barely into my studies and it felt like I was being asked to leave.
I talked to a spiritual director about this once, and he said to me, "Oh, I see. Did you ask God if you were supposed to receive your Ph.D. there?"
Looking back, I think I can make out some of it: leaving Princeton forced me to reconsider my life's path; it brought me to Montana where I met people who changed my life; the pain I felt at the University led me to start a Socrates Cafe at Princeton's public library and I'm happy to report that it's still thriving; the success there led me to start them in two other cities (Missoula, MT and McLean, VA) and both cafes are still going strong; leaving Princeton has allowed me to teach more students and I came away from Hiram College and the University of Montana, Missoula knowing some of the most dear, kindhearted, REAL people I have ever known.
In many ways, my life is much better post-Princeton than it was pre-Princeton.
Still, I haven't made peace with that decision and since then, I just feel like I'm drifting. This idea that I would become a college professor didn't feel right for a while -- only now is it beginning to blossom within me again.
***This afternoon, I came across Eckart Tolle's A New Earth, which seemed to find me exactly when I needed it most. The best thing about this book is that Oprah has chosen it as a book club book which means that all of us can go to her website or to ITunes and download the classes (each 1.5 hours long) for FREE. I watched the first class tonight, and it felt like Tolle was speaking directly to me.
He said that we need to ask life what our purpose here on Earth is AND we need to make ourselves still in order to hear the answer. He said that at one point in his life, he felt compelled to move to the West Coast and write a book there. He had no idea what the book would be about and he didn't know anyone ON the West Coast. Still, he trusted that small voice and took himself out there, knowing and TRUSTING that this impulse would provide answers to his question of "why?". Once he was there, he said he made himself still for days -- quieting his mind and his thoughts -- until one day, the book started coming to him. He also realized that to bring this book to life, he needed the West Coast's energy to nurture the ideas within him.
The result was, of course, A New Earth.
He also said that we have to ask ourselves two questions:
1. Am I ready to be still? (He said there are people who may need to suffer a little bit longer before they're reading to stop chattering and start listening.)
2. What is my relationship with the present moment? (Am I in it or am I thinking about other things? Am I enjoying my shower or am I already "at the office"?)
It is this last comment which felt like it was being directed right at me. Obviously, I must be resisting something in order to have all this persistent chaos in my life. What am I not making peace with? What is preventing me from having the life I know is within my grasp?
Furthermore, he said that what you resist, persists.
Is it karma? Am I working off an old cycle?
Is it fear? Fear of the unknown? Failure? Unacceptance?
Is it ego? Tolle says that you'll know a desire is ego driven if you finally get it and it does not satisfy you.
OR am I exactly where I need to be? Am I here, in this job, with these people because they need me the most right now? Am I called to act as a light in the darkness there? To smile when no one else does? To bring life to stagnation? To help others regain their souls?
I think this is why this past week was a good one for me at work BECAUSE I felt like I was really making a difference -- bringing problems to the attention of management, reaching out to those who are suffering or being persecuted, changing the way the environment there feels by showing up and demanding that it change. I think that this is why I can't seem to leave my job. Why the doors here opened up so quickly and why I feel compelled to stay just a tad longer. I can't name it but this year feels very important to me in this way.
I dislike that it takes me from things which feel important elsewhere but I know that, at most, it will only require another year to finish this...to be present there. I can't explain it. Just because I may have given up on the universe doesn't mean that it has given up on me. Maybe, even when I was unaware of it, I kept saying my prayer and the universe responded in turn.
Hm. It's certainly a theory and it's comforting. In the meantime, I choose to make peace with whatever I'm resisting. I choose to expand and advance past what I don't understand right now.
I think the difference now is that I trust it will happen.
I am in the process of believing it already is.
I am in the process of believing it already is.