I’m one of those sponges that absorbs people’s feelings and stories. At this stage of my life I wouldn’t want to trade that for another way of being, but there are downsides of being that kind of sponge – we get affected by the environment and the subjective side of life to a greater extent than other people do. For instances, when I had to sit down in a building full of academics and by-the-book people, I could not avoid to feel misplaced and I could not avoid to let myself be dragged down by my working environment. My artistic spirit would be crushed and substituted by a no-brainer way of being, something funnily required to survive in academia. Follow the data and ask no questions.
I always dreamt with going to university when I was a kid. In my mind, universities were places where people would finally put forward those meaningful questions that no one seems to care about much: why are we here? Where do we come from and where are we going? I hoped that there would be space for debate, freedom of speech and thought. That’s not what I found though and that’s also why I made the decision to remove myself of what I once thought would be my way in life. I have thought a lot about it and I have concluded thus far that my way might well be to bring awareness to how we have been shaping education instead of being part of it. Where do things start to go wrong? When do we start disconnecting and losing sight of we are to assume a role that other people think it’s best for us?
My new way might not be easier than the one I have been pursuing in academia, but it surely gives me more freedom, more excitement, and more joy. I say it’s a simpler way of living because it’s not a way which people will accept or perceive as socially desirable. Most people think it’s more socially desirable to be a doctor, a lecturer, a research leader than dedicate our waking hours to the creation of practical solutions for people. Yes, you may argue that a doctor / lecturer / researcher can do that too, but if you could see reality as I do, you would probably agree with me. The impact you make as a social scientist in academia is close to zero and it may take years, decades, until your work improves an inch of the world. By the time that happens, you probably already lost your change-maker sparkle and drive.
Plus, when I’m among doctors and academics, I feel I become humanly emptier. It feels wrong to be the way I am around them – and don’t think I didn’t try, because I did. It’s really damn hard to be different from the group without becoming a target of some sort. It’s even harder to try to blend in, because then you have to pretend you are someone you are not. At some point, I decided I didn’t want to keep myself on the race of who is smarter and I didn’t want to fall in the trap of making others feel less smart so I could feel good about my intellectual game. The university I dreamt about as a little girl proved to be an actual nightmare instead.
So far, I’m enjoying the simplicity of being and reconnecting with what moves me as a person. I’m happier outside the standard system and I know it’s true too that I’m only taking the first steps. I will have to battle hard to make my way viable and sustainable, but I’m sure I won’t be at least wasting away the best of me like I did for so many years. I don’t think our way in life is supposed to be one of suffering and illness. I believe our way in life must be one of happiness, grace, and compassion. That’s why I’m changing my life, one step at a time. I want to live more aligned with who I am and what I love. I want to cherish the people I meet and the experiences I get to live on this journey to happiness and beyond. And in the name of happiness, I’m choosing the simplicity of being.