May 4, 2007

epitaph

Or, she did nothing.

Yesterday, I read this post by Keri Smith, and thought
YES! This is what I've meant all along.

I believe in doing nothing. Not doing nothing, as in vegetating on the couch with a bag of chips in front of the TV all day, but doing nothing, as in slowing down, savoring, experiencing, and not pushing to control, compete, manipulate and succeed in the American sense of the word.

As a child I was always very competitive and had everything mapped out for my future. I was an excellent student, usually getting straight A's on my report cards and liked by my teachers. When I grew up, I planned to become a marine biologist (so I could scuba dive all day), a pyschologist (so I could help people with their problems), an Olympic swimmer, and a writer.

I began swimming competitively at the age of 10, which required 6-8 hours of practice a week. Practices were fun at first, but then they became repetitive and gruelling. When I didn't place in the top three at several swim meets, I gave up. What did I want to be a champion swimmer for? What I loved was the feel of gliding through the water, the freedom of movement and weightlessness of it. I felt like a mermaid. I always loved being in the water, but once swimming became
work, something I needed to do in order to win, I lost interest in swimming competitively. It wasn't fun.

When I went to college and told my advisor I planned to major in biology, she came up with an outline of courses I would need to take my first semester: chemistry, biology, calculus, and the required freshman humanities course. I balked, but gave it a try. After the first week of sitting through excruciatingly dull classes about numbers and chemical compositions and data, I dropped chemistry and calculus and signed up for a third-year Spanish literature class. I kept biology because I needed to study a science for one year, but I quickly discovered that I hated sitting in a lab for four hours and looking at squirmy blobs under a microscope.

My junior year, I declared myself a Literature major. I loved reading stories and I loved talking about them and interpreting them. I loved writing but didn't really love writing term papers. The idea of pressing forward with my studies to become an academic horrified me. I had no desire to narrow my focus to a specific genre or writer or theory. I didn't want to have to compete for a job in academia or deal with university politics and committees. Ugh. Too much hassle. Too much
work.

I was drawn to jobs that allowed me to earn a living while creating a life. I had time to do the things I loved: explore my environment, discover beauty, write in my journal, take classes, laugh with friends, go hiking, read novels, ride my bike, paint, meet people, take photographs, dance, travel. I had no desire for jobs that would allow me to climb some kind of ladder to "success." Those jobs usually meant I would have to work long hours, wear a suit, write reports and sit in meetings for hours. For what? More money? More things? A sense of security?

It is so easy in our culture to get caught up in the drive for money and success. This is the way of capitalism, the way we have been taught and the way we teach our children. We believe that more is better, so we sacrifice
being in the name of having. Our national past-times are shopping and watching television. In spite of advanced technologies that allow us to instantly connect with people anywhere in the world, we are so utterly disconnected from the people right next to us and the patch of earth we inhabit in any given moment.

This is something I struggle with: how do I live in this culture and not be a part of the rat race? How can I live simply, maintain my integrity, give back to my community, and be more attuned to nature and its cycles?

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