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[personal profile] sanet
Another spring, and another term over! When so much time goes by, it becomes impossible to sum up all the individual things that have happened. So instead, here are some general reflections on how I've changed my perspective and opened up my life in the last year.

Because you know what? I feel like I’ve found some sort of secret key for joyful living this year. I thought that yesterday as I walked to a jazz band rehearsal. (I'm in a jazz band now. True story.) I felt like I’d found the secret to happiness. But when I tried to pin it down, it eluded words, or came out too simple. “I just do what makes me happy!” Yes, that’s it! And not it, not entirely. The entire “it” can’t be captured. It’s a feeling of going down the right path, knowing what I do is for the best, living authentically. Just…living.

Of course it’s not always as simple as "just do whatever the hell you want." We all have to do things we hate sometimes. I have to go out in the freezing cold, or teach when I'm sick and exhausted, or make dinner when I don’t even want to eat, because doing those things will eventually get me to what I do want: a dance, a career, a full stomach. But there's so much space in between those individual trying things where nothing bad is happening and many good things are possible. That space of potential is where I live.

When I was writing my dissertation and first getting into teaching, I used to fill the best hours of my day with the things I didn’t want to do the most, because that was what I thought “working” was: not playing, not just screwing around. As a result, my days felt tight and heavy. I was oppressed and obsessed by time. It passed agonizingly slowly, but also alarmingly fast. It made me anxious and eventually borderline-suicidal. Why did do that to myself? I mean, it’s one thing to push through a difficult task or do a boring job, but it’s another thing to deliberately do what’s difficult or boring all day, to live in that headspace 24/7, out of some obscure belief that suffering is the only way to get to what you want.

Now, I’m realizing that living is what I do first. I already have what I want: the grounds to grow on. My life is like a huge open field under the sky, and working that land is just one of the things I do there. The rest of the field is all wild grasses: space to explore, to free-form it. When I think that way, spatially, in terms of planes, time also expands so that I easily have enough to do all kinds of things. I dance swing and blues, I write, I play jazz clarinet, I fold paper, I make art, I surf the Net, I watch cool things, I talk with people near and far, online and offline, I eat at restaurants, I stay in and cook, I drink tea, I play, I love. I have time I never thought I would. I have fun I never thought I would, too!

Of course, I still have a schedule, and I spend a lot of my time –usually 5-8 hours a day, 6-7 days a week— answering email, teaching, prepping, and researching film, animation, and new media. Some of my tasks are dull and mandatory, like departmental meetings. Some of them are things I love, like watching (and re-watching) movies. It’s best when the lines between work and leisure are blurred: for instance, when I really enjoy a film and then plan to teach it, like Hugo or Summer Wars or Her. It’s also great to write articles about things that have moved me passionately, like Vocaloid or –soon, I hope!-- electroswing videos.

But even when I have to do things that are more routine or even stressful, like admin work and grading, it’s bearable because I know that beyond that work time there is still other time, another place. My entire life is not and should not be academia. My life is mine to live, and it’s so big and open now. This isn’t just a passing good mood: it’s an attitude I’ve maintained for a full year. It has been one of the most successful years of my career so far, with one article published, two more accepted, and major presses actively requesting the book manuscript that has been gathering dust (and an origami spider, and coupons for Payless Shoes) on my desk for a good ten months. It has also been a year of personal blossoming, in terms of artistic and sexual expression. And the thing that turned it around was just doing what makes me happy. Realizing that there is enough time for life. You know. Living.
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April 2014

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