Never be afraid to get dirty, but be sufficiently sure-footed to avoid the abyss of contamination.

The Journal

Before my trip to Europe last year, a friend of mine gave me a journal to write about my travels. It ended up being a great way to record my experiences, but after the trip, there were still several empty pages. There was nothing left to write, so I set it aside on a bookshelf and got back to writing my thesis.

In about two weeks, I will be celebrating my first anniversary as a working stiff. Well, I won’t actually celebrate it or anything, but it will mark one year since I started. While I haven’t traveled long distances in the year since I started work, it’s definitely been a journey.

A week before I was to start, I received the final signature for my dissertation. I submitted the document a mere three days before my first day of work. A year later, I still haven’t picked up my degree, a piece of paper I spent six years working to acquire. It’s funny, but it doesn’t seem all that important anymore.

About a month and a half after starting work, a lot of things seemed to be moving at once: the rocky transition out of student life, the move to a new city, the end of a relationship, and the moving away of many friends. Amidst all this, I felt rather powerless and lonely.

It took me another month to get my bearings and start thinking about how to deal with my situation. I began with work, where I started to become more proactive on things that interested me. It felt great to take initiative, and when a random encounter offered an appealing opportunity, I was in a mindset where I wanted to explore it. Eight months later, I am happy about where it has taken me.

Then there was my personal life. To stay active socially, I got into the groove of organizing outings, potlucks, lunches, and random other things. I rekindled some old friendships and acquaintances in the process. I also took up some hobbies, which led me to meet new and interesting people.

As I was staying busy, problems struck at home, and while I didn’t acknowledge it at the time, those problems planted a seed of anger that started growing inside me like one of Jack’s magic beans. The anger came to a head when my parents visited last month, and it lingered in some amorphous Pig-Pen-like cloud around me after they left.

I started to feel out of sorts, perhaps even in a funk, and during any time away from work, I felt like I was running on auto-pilot: just going through the motions. I no longer felt the desire to organize anything, and when I did go out, I found myself getting irritated by the most trivial of things.

When I finally started confronting the anger head-on, I found my head was a mess, filled with a jumble of incoherent thoughts. It was around this time that I noticed the travel journal, and one night before heading to bed, I started to write in it. While I’m not sure the pages will be filled before I stop, it’s providing space for my thoughts to coalesce and organize. With any luck, the pig pen will be clean in time for the next mess.

3 responses

  1. Rich

    I hope all is well. May your emotions ebb and flow and let only the happy ones wash ashore.

    September 22, 2010 at 3:34 pm

  2. K

    Thanks… it reminded me of the end of a speech:

    May you enjoy the special pleasures of craft the private satisfaction of doing a task as well as it can be done.

    May you enjoy the special pleasures of profession the added satisfaction of knowing that your efforts promote a larger public good.

    May you be blessed with good luck, and also with the wisdom to appreciate when you have been lucky rather than skillful.

    May you find ways to help others under circumstances where they cannot possibly know that you have done so.

    May you be patient, and gentle, and tolerant, without becoming smug, self-satisfied, and arrogant.

    May you never be afraid to take the risk of getting dirty, but may you always be sufficiently sure-footed that you avoid the abyss of contamination.

    May you know enough bad weather that you never take sunshine for granted, and enough good weather that your faith in the coming of spring is never shaken.

    May you always be able to confess ignorance, doubt, vulnerability, and uncertainty.

    May you frequently travel beyond the places that are comfortable and familiar, the better to appreciate the miraculous diversity of life.

    And may your steps lead you often back to Ithaca. Back to East Hill. For you will always be Cornellians. And we will always be happy to welcome you home.


    September 23, 2010 at 4:22 am

  3. Rich

    Speaking of which, it’s time to look at flights back to upstate NY.

    September 23, 2010 at 6:10 am

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