Friday, July 10, 2009

The Unexamined Life

So here I am, finding myself between the pages of what it definitively two very different chapters in my life. I'm foreclosing on a house, I just graduated college, I've just proposed to my girlfriend, and I just landed my first teaching position for a summer bridge program at Mountain Pointe. Looking back on the last oh, probably about six years of my life it's safe to say I worked veerrry hard to get where I'm at. The only true regret I suppose I can claim is that I really didn't enjoy the ride all that much. I was a bit too intense, a bit self-absorbed, and definitely a little too goal oriented. In Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, Morrie quotes a man who once said "Love is the only rational act." If such a thing is true, I can't help but wonder why it is we all live so irrationally. The vast majority of my own actions over most of my life have not been love based. In fact, it is often sometimes difficult to understand what love really means when even love between two people is often selfish and sensual.
But to avoid that massive tangent, my point is that I hope this next chapter somehow reflects my learning from that lesson; that I won't make excuses for my rather grumpy attitude but will instead make decisions that avoid that path altogether.
If there is anything I am good at, it's probably "planning ahead." I mean this in the sense that I evaluate where I want to be so far down the line. Generally speaking, I give myself credit for making things happen too. Still, just because one follows a map doesn't mean they took the best route to the destination. Whether one takes life as an adventure or as a possession to be controlled, it still has an expiration date, and to know this, to actually be ready for this mentally, I think, implies that there is some sort of understanding of priorities in life. Morrie mostly discusses how we live so very trivially in terms of our priorities and vision. Inherently we all know what is good; we all know that our attitude and approaches make the difference. One man digging holes is miserable because it's hard manual labor; another sees it as his worthy contribution to the world's well being. He sees it as a job someone's got to do, and it's the job he's chosen to do. It tires him out, and it gives him strength. It lets him work with his hands and think about life. To him, it is no more or less worthy a task than the man who makes decisions at the highest tier of the corporate world because his perspective on priorities are different. The groupthink of our culture today can't really understand this approach to living because it doesn't promote its values. What is good is not necessarily important because the truth is our priorities lie on us, and no one is going to pay attention to me if I don't do it myself, right? I really hope having literally over a hundred students that I'm responsible for pulls me somewhat out of this mentality.
Teaching is one of those professions that as they say "you don't do for the money." I almost think I'm happier that way. Something about teaching forces you to find intrinsic value in your everyday job. You could go to Princeton or ASU and they'll start you at the same pay. If you can't learn to see the less tangible rewards you don't tend to stick around. Those who do usually end up pretty bitter. I like to think I've paid my dues in terms of fostering that attitude though. I don't want to be that way anymore. I'd rather work towards some sort of understanding and purpose on life. To do this I suspect is going to require an overhaul of my value system, which I can only hope comes with the pages ahead. In the mean time, there's not much left to do but read on.

Originally posted Thursday, May 22, 2008

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