In November of last year, I wrote that I had been “barely living” for the past few months. That time frame referenced my return to Canada following a year of travel, and was really premised on the feeling of stagnancy after a significant period of movement and change. The circumstantial juxtaposition was profound, and was something I’ve previously discussed at length: the shift from family and constant human interaction to prolonged periods of solitude and isolation; the sudden replacement of mountains, trees, lakes, and birds by cold glass towers and concrete walls. I had spent a year working hard to secure my belonging and find my worth in various communities only to leave and find myself so out of place and forgotten in the place I, for all intents and purposes, call home. No one seemed to really care about my experiences, and I was still the one asking all the questions. Everyone seemed to be so focused on their own paths to self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment that they were too occupied to look into the eyes of another, to engage fully in intersecting lives.
None of this should have come as a surprise; I knew that fieldwork would be a year of constant human interaction, full of committed immersion and participation, and that the following year would be one of solitary writing and relative seclusion in a city I find distant and unwelcoming. I knew the transition would be challenging, as are most transitions in life. And I also knew, in moments of clarity, that circumstances influence, but do not dictate, happiness. But, with all that being said, I spent my first year back in Canada uninspired, unmotivated, undisciplined, and despondent. I think a large part of me just gave up. For months I lived out of boxes, unwilling to fully unpack with the notion or hope that I’d be moving soon anyway. For months I ate on the floor or from the kitchen counter, refused to leave the apartment for days on end, stopped talking to people, and relied on what little reserve was left in my body. The writing for myself ceased, and this blog became stagnant.
If I had been “barely living” for a good part of the year, I acknowledge that it was my own fault and take responsibility. This fall I will be entering my tenth straight year of post-secondary education. It will be my sixth year in my doctoral program, and my first unfunded year, which of course comes with its hardships. But the choice to live and live well while still on this earth has always been my own. Maybe this text will help keep me accountable. Or, whoever is reading it will.
I am reminded of Maya Angelou’s speech at this year’s BET Honors:
Let us so live [that] we will not regret years of useless virtue & inertia & timidity & ignorance. And in our last moments we can say, all my life, all my conscious energies have been dedicated to the most noble cause in the world: the liberation of the human mind and spirit, beginning with my own.
Music: Sara Bareilles – Once Upon Another Time