Contrary to what I have said elsewhere, I have returned to school for the Spring semester. What I’d like to do here is share what my intentions are.
Where Do We
Lately, before I let my mind spin off on thinking about what I’d like to do, I’ve first gone to thoughts of who I want to be and where I want to be. Where is an interesting take on the question of, Who am I? Asking, Where do I want to be? feels much nicer than asking, What do I want to do? There’s much more space in the question of where. It also makes answering the question of what much easier.
Asking What shall I do? first generally isn’t as effective. The question is very yang (i.e. forceful, assertive) in nature. Yet, when it is asked before any other question, it’s like swinging at air. It asks for action without context. When you try to take action without setting a context within which to do so, you end up yanging all over the place. You wear yourself out… And you look like a fool with yo’ pants on the ground.
I’ve written elsewhere about setting a context for your life, such as in my book. In the past, I’ve used the terms “context” and “purpose” interchangeably. Your life purpose sets the context in which your life takes place. Everything that happens, happens in relation to your purpose. For all events, actions, desires, and experiences, you can ask yourself, What does this have to do with my life purpose? Because your purpose is the container in which your life is held, you’ll find that everything relates to your purpose somehow.
Your context is the container in which your life takes place. At least that one’s easy to remember.
For the last several years, I’ve defined this container as a statement of purpose. Currently, my statement of purpose is to grow courageously, to love fully, and to live intelligently. That statement is the basis on which the various dots of my life connect.
When I take a look around, I see all the events of my life playing into this purpose in some fashion. With certain events it can take some time before that fact becomes more apparent (such as in the recent event of my car falling apart!), though I have a sense of knowing that this is so.
The longer I stick with this purpose, the sooner I return to this knowing. Once I do that, the event at hand can no longer cause me grief. Instead, it becomes a vehicle (literally, in some cases) through which my life purpose is to advance. It’s fascinating to wonder how that will be achieved—and I always have a good many revelations to look forward to. J
In recent days, I’ve taken the next step in answering the question, Where do I want to be? My statement of purpose is container #1 (well, after the universe, that is). Before I start taking intelligent action and getting all yang on life, however, I like to narrow that context down a bit more. To do that, I pull out container #2, and stick that inside container #1 (you’ll never find this stuff at Tupperware parties, by the way).
Container #2 of Where do I want to be? is, What field do I like to be in? Another way to ask this is, What space do I like to be in? This is different than doing art or doing science. We’re getting to that part, but we aren’t there quite yet. Doing refers to a very specific action. You can do a painting of the Mona Lisa (don’t get any thoughts here, boys), but you can’t do the entire field of art with one stroke. You can, however, be in that field. You haven’t stated exactly what you’re going to do there just yet, but you’ve defined where you want to be. From that desire, the question of what you are going to do follows naturally.
The Space Between
When you define Container #2, you aren’t limited to the list of majors you were (or will be!) handed in college—nor are you limited to choosing one item off that list. For instance, perhaps you like being in the space between art and science. Depending on who you are, that statement may or may not have just rang some bells in your head.
I like being in the space between running and personal development. I’ve recently felt a desire to explore this space more thoroughly (though, I will say, this desire is always pretty hot). While I experienced being in the space in-depth during my semester off by going for long runs on my own (i.e. up to 50 miles), I sensed that I was drifting from precisely where I wanted to be within that space.
What drew me back to school was the desire to run races. I’ve decided that a physical space I really enjoy being in is on a track. At the same time, I felt that the best way that I could be in the space between running and personal development at the time was to return to the track.
I certainly did grow through the running I did on my own time and terms. But, I reached a point where I sensed the next best step to take would be to return to the space of competition—specifically, the space of serious competition. Not just any old 5K road race. It’s too easy to slack there. I saw the track as the best place for me to bring out the best within myself.
In the container analogy, you can consider the space of competition to be container #3, and the space of the track to be container #4. #1 is my statement of purpose, and #2 is the field(s) I like being in. #3 is more specific than #2. #4 defines a physical space.
The smaller the container (i.e. the higher its number), the more subject to change it is. This is similar to the planning outline laid out in Comprehensive Planning/ The Story of Life. The further down the hierarchy you go, the more frequently things change. At the top, where you’ll find life purpose, you’ll make some tweaks here and there, but the overall spirit of your purpose will likely remain the same for years—perhaps even for life.
I have no intentions on being done with ultrarunning forever—not in the least. The physical manifestation of beingness is pretty fluid, and the space of ultrarunning will become my challenge once again on another day. For the time being, where has directed me back to the track. In time, however, endurance (or something similar) will once again become Container #3, and the mountains and trails will become Container #4.
It doesn’t have to quite go that way, though. Container #3 might remain as serious competition. But container #4 will change from the track to the wilds. That, too, could be enough to take me back to ultrarunning. There are multiple ways of reaching a certain destination.
In fact, all roads lead home. No matter what (or how many) smaller containers you stick inside Container #1 (statement of purpose), you’ll still be inside of Container #1. You can’t not be there. Hence, all roads lead home.
Now, the title of this section has me thinking about what the space between containers might mean. I’ll let ya know when I come up with something good.
A Room of One’s Own
Anyway, at the same time I decided that I wanted to compete interscholastically once again, I did not want to go back to school per se. I decided last year (the 2014-2015 schoolyear) that I didn’t like the where that is school—particularly, formal, mainstream education. I was totally shocked that I would even consider going back. No way, I said. I can’t live like that again. No race is worth my freedom.
But, I really wanted to race. My odds of running unattached somewhere (i.e. showing up to a track meet on my own) looked pretty dismal. But I would have made a bet on those odds if that’s what I really wanted to do. Racing unattached just didn’t feel like enough. It wasn’t quite what I wanted. Being on a team felt more compelling to me.
That thought came as a shock to me, too. How can I have a coach again? I’ll have to do a bazillion things I disagree with. All the progress I’ve made on my own the last 8 months will probably be thrown to Hell.
To cut to the chase, I soon enough decided that I would indeed return to school and running on a team there. But, I also decided that I really don’t care about the space that is formal, mainstream education. I don’t care about the space of grades, awards, academic research, degrees, accolades, pleasing professors and administrators, or anything of that sort. I especially don’t care about the space of working out of obligation and fear. I put a lot of effort into those things during high school and saw them as incredibly important; but, a year and a half later, I can’t honestly say that I care anymore.
Coming to this point felt peaceful. But, I had to figure: how was I to go into a space that I saw as totally irrelevant to me?
I’ve decided to fashion this into an opportunity to be in the very space I was going there for in the first place—the overlap between running and personal growth. The school I’m attending (same community college as last year) offers a certification program required to become a high school athletic coach in the state of New York. Based on the plans I currently have for my life I doubt I’ll use it anytime soon, but I sure would like to someday. The thought of holding the space for other people that I so dearly love to be in myself sounds wonderful. This could make a wonderful outgrowth, in the future, of both my running career and my personal development career. It may be a perfect way of combining my broad, rich knowledge and experience from both fields.
Coaching was a well and good place to start, but I needed to take a few more classes to be considered full-time and to thus be able to compete for the school. To get financial aid, these classes would have to be part of a major—something that coaching was not.
At first, I switched my major to psychology. My first semester my major was Human Services, and in the very similar Psychology program, I would have a smooth ride to the finish. Besides—all the classes for my major of the second semester, Cybersecurity, were closed out anyway (I should note that I signed up for classes the day before the semester started. This school may not be the most organized or prestigious, but it sure as hell does a good job of handling chaos). So I figured I’d throw the few bs classes I needed on to my schedule, fly through them, get a degree, and then get the hell out of there.
When it came time to sit down and schedule those classes, however, I felt stuck. No, I didn’t feel stuck—I felt like I was getting sucked down into the vortex that takes you to the intersection of bullshit and slavery. Am I really going to do this? I asked myself. Because I don’t think I can. I just can’t waste my life on this again.
Even though various advisors had just helped me jump through hoops that would help me to get a Psychology degree, I decided that for now I would just take the minimum number of classes needed to get full-time status. So, I had a total of 4—two from coaching, two from Psych. I decided to trust in the idea that I don’t owe anybody anything. On top of that, betrayal of self to keep from betraying another is betrayal nonetheless. There was no good reason to get a degree just to please a few people. Besides—in the long run they probably wouldn’t care that much anyway. I know I certainly didn’t care, either.
In fact, when I imagined myself walking across the stage to get a Psychology degree, I felt disgusted. That was an experience I did not want to have. I did not want to grab that diploma. I wanted to run away. I didn’t care whether I had “worked” for it or “earned” it—I could not respect myself knowing I had gone after something I did not care for. “Psychology, AS” was something I didn’t want on my record. To me, it might as well have read, “Psychology, ASS” (or, its Baccalaureate counterpart, BS).
I thought it seemed overly irrational of myself to feel that way, but I decided to respect the feeling and ditch any intention to get a Psychology degree. I had tried hard enough to stomp out my feelings and squeeze a square peg into a round hole my first year of college, and I wasn’t interested in doing that anymore. I intended to do things differently this time.
So, my schedule didn’t feel perfect, but I figured I could live with it for now. It left me with plenty of freedom to focus on running (my main goal anyway) and to work on personal projects, such as the magnificent kimwrate.com.
I went to the psychology class I had on the first day, but it felt wrong to me. As the teacher gave an overview of the class, I kept thinking how I’d just have to tolerate this class and fly right through it. I guess I can do this, I said to myself.
Over the next several days, Cybersecurity classes began to open up. I was surprised by the excitement I felt at seeing this. People are dropping like flies! One such class was being taught by an instructor I had in my 2nd semester, who I had particularly enjoyed being around. It doesn’t matter what he’s teaching. I want to be in his class!
That goes to show, again, that being is more meaningful than doing. He has a lot of knowledge and skill in the field of Cybersecurity. But, what really matters is that he creates a welcoming learning environment, simply by virtue of who he is.
I came into the major last year with a weaker computer background than some of my classmates. Yet, I felt comfortable with answering the questions he posed to the class and asking a few of my own. I didn’t even know what CPU was when I started his class, but that was okay.
Overall, it seemed that I couldn’t do any wrong in that class. It was alright if I took a wrong guess or plugged in the wrong plug. As long as I just kept going, I found the way in time. In the end, I came out with an A anyway.
A year ago I wasn’t quite as comfortable with being myself as I am now. Yet, when I was in his class, he gave me some of the comfort that I couldn’t yet give to myself. I am grateful for that.
Anyway, in spite of my excitement, I did have some doubts about studying Cybersecurity. What the heck am I going to use this for? It’s not like I’m going to get a job in the field. What does this have to do with all the life-plans I just wrote up? What are we trying to secure, anyway?
In response to this, I returned to my original intention for going back to school, and I pushed objective outcomes aside. I asked myself, What if there’s nothing I need to learn here? What if I already have within me all the information and skill I need? What if, instead, I focus simply on what I’m experiencing? What then?
Again, this line of thinking produced a sense of inner peace. Possibilities opened up. I looked through lists of all the relevant terminology I was to know, and I imagined how all these pieces might connect in the system that is the computer. I still couldn’t see what this might have to do with my life as a whole, but it fascinated and compelled me.
This seemed like a highly desirable alternative to sleeping through Psychology classes. It certainly was more in line with growing courageously. I wanted to do something that was challenging and engaging to me; I wanted to explore mystery.
This seems to me like a marvelous opportunity to play. For me, this isn’t about protecting credit card numbers or defending against hackers or even developing my technical skills. It certainly isn’t about getting good grades or handing in my homework on time or getting a shiny new degree, either (though I may—that’s in the air at this point). I just want to play. I want to explore this space that I don’t totally understand. Maybe I won’t find answers to the questions I have about this field, but I can have fun exploring those questions.
Based on where I’m at in my life right now, Psychology just can’t offer all that to me. The best I can do there is coast—and coasting just doesn’t feel like me. With that idea in mind, I switched my major to Cybersecurity, and I dropped the Psychology classes. I didn’t do that until after that first class was in session for the second time, but I didn’t even bother going. No part of me wanted to be there.
It turns out that Cybersecurity is a roundabout way of studying social sciences like Psychology and Sociology anyhow. I think I will find that I am more engaged with thought about Psychology by studying Cybersecurity than I am by studying Psychology directly. In fact, I know that’s the case, because I intend it to be so. You can lead a horse to water, but which puddle he drinks out of is up to him. Both puddles contain water, but he’s still going to choose one or the other anyway.
Since I’m so interested in personal growth, it seems that I should study Psychology—doesn’t it? Aren’t they, like, the same thing? Maybe they should be, but they aren’t. I’ve felt right about Personal Growth from Day 1, and I’ve felt wrong about Psychology from Day 1. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with Psychology, or that I haven’t gotten any value out of studying it. But I just can’t genuinely say that I care too much for it.
This is how I’ve felt about academia in general. I have very little interest in being there. It doesn’t feel like me. There are countless other outlets for genius anyhow.
Sing Though As Angels
In my mind, I haven’t really gone back to school. I feel like I’m just visiting. At the end of What is a Real Life?, I suggested thinking about your life as though you had already died, and you were a spirit just coming back to visit old experiences. How would life look to you then? What would you do? How would you be?
That’s how I feel about school. I’m not really a student. As far as I’m concerned, my college days are over. I graduated from the formal education system long ago. I’m a ghost who’s just hanging around, checking things out, and reflecting.
But, I’m not a restless or vengeful ghost. I’m a friendly ghost. In a way, this exploration isn’t even about me. As I stated earlier, my main reason for going back was to do something I wanted to do (i.e. run races). I’m not trying to fulfill anyone else’s Earthly-level wishes.
Yet, sticking to my guns and acting based solely on what I want seems to have led me to meet other people’s wants as well. Yet, as I said, these aren’t their Earthly-level wants. These are their spiritual-level wants. I’m a ghost who has returned to assist others who are still going through the experience of school (and we all know they need a lot of help). Perhaps those “others” include my own Earthly self. I’m transforming this experience for us all.
I’m not doing anything outwardly noble or heroic. Not in the least. I’m doing homework and running around in ovals, for Christ’s sake. But, things are happening in the deeper workings of reality. Let me explain, through a story.
Back on that day when I was scheduling classes- which was the day before classes I started- I reached a point, as I said, where I started to wonder whether I really wanted to do this. After sinking into that thought for a few minutes, someone said “Hello” to me. I looked up. It was the guy who was sitting at the computer next to me. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him precisely what I was thinking about. He sympathized with me briefly, and then started talking about how he got to this school and what he himself was doing. From there, we launched into a 90-minute conversation about college, cars, politics, and computers. As the conversation went on I felt better and better, and I put my dread about scheduling classes aside. It was a delightful exchange, and I had a lot of fun.
Eventually he told me that he had to get going, and we said our goodbyes. We hadn’t even asked each other what our names are until that point. After he left, I turned my chair back toward the computer, and I thought, Man, who is that guy?
When I look back on that event now, a whopping week later, I can see that in that moment, I was showered with love. Not with fluffy romantic or gooey sexual love. Those things are fine and good, but that’s not what I’m talking about here. Rather, it was love from the universe.
He didn’t do anything in particular. Not even life-coaching. In fact, I don’t think I even mentioned how I had taken a semester off and I was thinking about coming back but now I wasn’t sure. I don’t believe we talked about that at all.
He didn’t do anything that directly addressed my situation. Yet, the way he was being brought me into a higher state of being as well—certainly one preferable to misery and dread. Our conversation reminded me that I can be my best self, meet wonderful people, and have fun no matter where I am physically. Not only that, but I don’t even have to tolerate my external circumstances in order to do so, because I create them. What I’m doing and Where I am (physically) fall away in the face of Who I am.
I see that this person was intricately woven into the workings of my reality. On a higher level, I (or, you might say, God—in Subjective Reality there is no difference) placed him there so that I may remember my highest thought about who I am. You could interpret this to mean that that man was an angel. Not holier than thou and descended from Heaven with wings and the whole bit; rather, just a guy who was being himself.
Any Way the Wind Blows
So, with ideas in mind about who I am and where I want to be, I shall transform the place I have cared so little about from the inside out. No longer will school be a place of dread, anxiety, pettiness, busywork, and enslavement. Now, I return to this place with a consciously chosen purpose and clear desires.
In fact, I would say this transformation has already happened. The negative attributes I had previously assigned to the place that is “school” have all but vanished. This place I had once hated is now but an extension of the place I most loved to be in. On a surface level, I may not agree or identify with all the various aspects of school. But, when I look at the situation from a higher plane, all those things are simply not there. I say grades don’t matter, and any semblance of their being a problem vanishes. I say I need not a degree, and it makes no difference whether I get one. I say I need not fear, and fear disappears.
I truly am the creator of my reality here. And now, I have returned to this aspect of my reality to re-create it consciously—to surround it with love. In so doing, I re-create myself, in the form of the highest vision I have yet held of myself. And it only gets better from here.
It turns out that I don’t need to whip myself in order to get my work done. In fact, I don’t even need to consider schoolwork as work at all. As I said earlier, it’s just play. When I relate to it in that way, it’s far easier to “get shit done.” And it doesn’t it feel like work. It’s just an extension of who I am. No one is forcing me to do anything. The man didn’t rope me into doing his bidding. I’m doing my own bidding. I’m just exploring, and being myself.
I may not come out of this semester with the objective achievements I thought school was all about when I was a high school student, but it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I go to a place I enjoy being in (i.e. the space between personal development and running), and I expand the depth of my presence there.
The specific what this process takes changes fairly often. In the past, it has looked like running a 100 mile race in the middle of Winter, and in the future I’m sure it will again. It has looked like racing distances anywhere between 5K and 100K. It has taken form on the roads, on the track, and in the woods. It has gone inside and outside. It has even taken the form of being injured and having to rest. In the near future it will go on an epic journey, and someday it will look like me helping others to do these very things. The what varies, as do the specific and physical wheres. But the core where- the space between running and personal development- is unchanging. That is the space in which I create who I am.
And that is the space where I consciously choose to be. No matter where I may travel to or reside in the physical world, as long as I remain in that space I most hold dear, I’ll know that I’m always right where I need to be.
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