I asked this week’s F5 Question:
Sometime in the last few years, I crossed a couple of great divides. For one thing, I stopped being depressed about my life. For another, I completely changed my dietary habits and my attitude toward exercise. Both of these are major changes that I never thought possible, and having made them, I feel somewhat of a discontinuity from the person who, for so long, waited to cross those divides. What are the five greatest divides that you’ve crossed so far in your life?
Here I go again, getting myself into trouble. I’ll see if I can answer this question.
- Passing out of the tunnel. For a few years there, my life was basically a tunnel through the dirt; it was tight, and rough, and sometimes I scraped myself wriggling through itand the worst thing, I think, was the claustrophobia. I felt trapped inside this life, this mind, this experience of myself. Eventually, I realized I had to do something about what I’d known for so long was a depression. I tried all kinds of things, and my experiences in those years could probably fill up a whole autobiography, but finally I understood that what would help was taking my life and making of it what I wanted. I always wanted to write a novel, so I did that. I wanted to play music, so I started doing that. The music wasn’t exactly what I wanted, and the novel still isn’t finished; but I am engaged with my life, and capable of feeling joy, meeting challenges and difficulties with optimism, spirit, and creativity. Wanting not only to stay alive, but to truly live, is a wonderful feeling, and it’s great to feel it once again; I perhaps appreciate it more than I might have if I’d never passed through that tunnel.
- Coming to Korea. I would never have believed I could live in Asia for as long as I have. Getting by in a country where the majority of people cannot speak or understand your language is a constant challenge; making friends, building a life, and finsing love, though, it seems have been easier for me than I could ever have imagined. But I have changed a lot since I’ve come to Korea. Sure, the diet and increased exercise inherent in life here have something to do with the external changes: I’m much thinner and healthier. But there’s also the internal changes: I’m more patient, more able to speak about what I think is universal in humans, more equipped to survive through changes and to parse differences intelligently. I also appreciate and enjoy my own language more, and take it for granted less often. I also care deeply about things I would never have even known about years ago.
- Moving on. Tomorrow, my friend Nick is getting married. Tonight he and I talked a little bit about my previous marriage and I felt clearly how little I feel about that part of my past. I could joke about the craziness of running around trying to organize a wedding, and speak of my own experience in that area, and I was happy to find myself free from it, instead of plagued by memories and feelings as I used to be years ago. It’s a wonderful thing, and I agree with all the people who told me that once I was over it, and not before, I’d be ready to meet someone else.
- Money things. This divide I haven’t actually crossed yet; I’m in the process now, the slow and painful process. Of all the things I messed up in the past, the one that still plagues me today is money. I have gigantic debts that need to be paid off and to do it, I’m going to have to work hard and spend much less money than I usually do. So I’m working on this now: trying to get my budget in order, minimize my expenditures, and focus on my financial goals, like paying off my debts so I can be free of them. It’s hard when you want to be able to eat out more, or spend money on your girlfriend, or go on a trip somewhere, but one has to remind oneself of the coming freedom and just buckle down into living frugally.
- The coming divide. There’s one last divide that I think I can feel ahead of me, or perhaps underfoot. It’s a divide that I can’t exactly articulate in the most clear way, but it has to do with what I am going to devote my energies to in tis life. It may take some time, for I need financial independence and I need a clearer plan in mind if I am to pursue it, but I feel that there must be more to life than simply making (or chasing) money. In times past, I was dedicated to becoming a musician, or a novelist and poet, but while I still focus on my desire to write, I feel there are other things which will take priority in my life. I have a feeling it has to do with the intertwining of business and state interests, but I have no idea at all what I am going to do about it. I just feel as if to combat this whole conglomerated machine that has co-opted the human species and the planet it lives on, I need to cross some kind of cognitive divide. I need to have things clear in my mind, and see through a lot of dichotomies and values that I now take for granted. I will need to reassess my starting assumptions, I guess, and that will be a great divide. One of my teachers, David Solway, warned a class I was in that it’s very difficult to become a different person, but, he told us, it is possible. I think I’m pretty good as a person, but I want to be one of those rare people who actually does something about problems, instead of just feeling and thinking and talking a certain way about them. That’s gonna take work and probably some more seeing-the-world and a fair bit of time. But I shall cross this ravine as I have the others.
Whew. I feel exhausted. But I should go prepare for my 8:45 pm class. Yes, it’s Friday night. Don’t ask what I think of that… there’s only 4 more classes left anyway.