Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Oh, so you want to teach?"

“So what is your major?” It’s a question we’re all very familiar with. “The Major” is a part of how the college career is defined. If you don’t have one, you will soon enough. When you meet someone new and he or she discovers that you are a college student, their obvious response is, “what are you studying?” When I respond, “I’m a double major, in English and Music,” it has become almost inevitable that the person posing the questions will then assume, “Oh, so you want to teach?”

“Um, I’m not sure yet,” I’ll say, avoiding a real answer. The truth is, I don’t want to teach. In fact, I’ve never wanted to. Don’t get me wrong; I have incredible respect for teachers. I have had some teachers that may have changed my life. I admire those that do want to be teachers, and I believe they have great patience and certainly the potential to change the world. But I just never saw myself doing that work and being really happy. Perhaps that sounds a little selfish. Who could not want to pass their knowledge graciously onto a younger generation? But maybe we are allowed to be selfish in deciding what we are going to do with the rest of our lives. It’s my life, after all, so how much should I care about pleasing the innocent stranger asking, “Oh, so you want to teach?”

Liz Gilbert’s journey to self-discovery contains many factors that encompass the idea of finding one’s own happiness. She learns to balance pleasure and devotion. And she learns many other things along the way. She learns to let go. She learns to be happy with herself. She learns to stop trying to live up to the expectations of others and instead find her own destiny. Most of all, she finds freedom. And I could relate, to some extent, to the experience of self-discovery that she described. I can’t say I’ve completed it, but I can say that I am a much happier person now than I was at the start of my time at Loyola. Originally, I struggled with being at Loyola. I blamed that unhappiness on the minuscule music department and very nearly left for a music school. But something made me stay. I believe I began my journey sometime around the middle of the summer. I was in a musical, written by one of my friends, with people I had either only known of or hadn’t known at all. I was used to my friends from high school musicals, but this was a very different crowd. The musical was about spiritual and self-discovery, and it was through all of this that I began to realize that my real problem with college had been that I was holding on to high school. The show made me realize that, as did the wonderful new people I came to love. I still was tormented by the fact that it seemed like my only future option was teaching, though. At the end of the summer I went through a breakup. It had been a very short relationship, if one could even consider it a relationship, but I didn’t take it well due to circumstances surrounding it and the fact that I had never been in a relationship before. This added to my need for some sort of change or realization. I decided, as school began, that I wanted to live spontaneously. Almost as Liz Gilbert decided that traveling on a whim would relieve her of her loss and help her find herself, I felt that freedom from structure would relieve me. And perhaps it would allow me to find that unnamable something that was missing.

Over fall break, I packed up on a whim and took the MegaBus to visit my friend at NYU. We were able to see two shows and spend the weekend aimlessly wandering my favorite city. A few weekends later, I decided last minute to go to the Equality March in D.C. with Marie Gause. I met another friend from NYU there and was in a euphoric mood all day. I began doing BodyFlow at the FAC, a combination of Yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates. I still had a hard time accepting how things were going, though.

It wasn’t until a little over a month ago that I finally turned my worldview around, and it took two devastating events for this to occur. Someone I had known and done musicals with in high school passed away from a combination of drugs and alcohol. He was only a year older than me, on his way to great things at Yale, and very close with many of my close friends. Barely a week later, the father of one of my best friends passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. I am close with the family, and the news was terrible. But among these morbid events, I was hit by a realization of what was important and what was petty. My friends are important. My family is important. I have been able to forgive the boy from over the summer. I have been able to forgive myself. I am trying to eliminate the phrases “could’ve,” “would’ve,” “should’ve,” and “if only” from my vocabulary. I do not believe in regrets, and somehow I’ve managed to realize that I do not regret my short-lived relationship from the summer or my decision to come to Loyola or even my decision to stay here. Perhaps it’s cheesy, but it all happened for a reason. I could now list those reasons. In reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, I was even more inspired. I was enlightened because I had already discovered many of the things she did. I can’t say that I have completed my self-discovery, but I have been able to wake up every day in an excited mood.

My journey to self-discovery has finally begun. My attempt to find my higher purpose has begun. I don’t want to teach; yet I could not say for sure what I want to do. I don’t think I need to know. Perhaps next time I’m asked, I will say, “No, I’m not going to teach. I don’t know where I’ll be five years from now, but who does?” And that outlook has made all the difference. I don’t need to know where I’ll be. I will find out. That’s not to say that I plan to sit back and wait for a sign. Destiny is not about sitting still. It is about taking action and in that way discovering where you belong. That is what I’ll do. For now, my highest purpose is with my family and friends, and to appreciate the blessing they bring to me everyday. It is for my teachers; it is for the English teachers who introduce me to new worlds and ideas, and for my music teachers who are incredible people and make up completely for the small music department. And it is for living each day fully. Living, in a sense, the way Liz Gilbert begins to live abroad. It is about finding balance and learning to eat well, pray often, and fill my life with love.

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