risk, decision-making and dreaming

Telling us to obey instinct is like telling us to obey "people." People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war.... Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of the rest. ~C.S. Lewis

It is not a secret that I have struggled with being decisive. I think this is because I am afraid of doing the wrong thing, of ignoring my instinct, or not hearing it in the first place. But perhaps Lewis is right, perhaps there is no right instinct. Maybe life is made up of various paths, circuits and following one over the other is simply a decision that takes you down one path that will eventually get you to wherever it is you're meant to be. Do you believe in meant to be? 

When I was younger, I imagined all kinds of possibilities for my life. I was a daydreamer. I made plans, thought about where I might live, what kind of job I might have. And then I started doing and in some ways, I stopped dreaming, at least in fantastical ways. The practicalities of life began to override my daydreams about traveling to Costa Rica in search of a rare tree frog or living in a New York loft throwing amazing parties on the rooftop with a view of the city. Dreams are not meant to be practical, I'm learning, though some of my true heart's dreams still kind of are. 

I was a big dreamer, with big ideas and a feeling that I was meant for something great. My family was incredibly supportive of pretty much anything I wanted to do, changing my major, going to Europe (well, maybe not as much), undertaking a Master's, moving to Illinois for my Ph.D. Once in a Ph.D. program, I felt at home. It was exactly where I belonged even if I had no idea what I was foing most of the time. I just made a decision and followed through. I have never regretted it. 

I'm in the middle of job searching right now and the weight of decisions feels heavy. The past few years have been full of me questioning my path, wondering if I've made the right choices, wondering what else is out there for me. I've thought about detours and timing and proving grounds. I've come to terms with mistakes I've made and realized exactly what I do not want to do and how to improve what I do want to do. I have learned about clarity and silence and what happens when who you are becomes a liability. 

I am getting excited about possibilities again, for research, for teaching, for change and adventure and a difference in geography. But it's tempered with the stress of all that comes with job hunting. It's like dating, wondering if someone feels the same way about you that you feel about them and all that. 

I begin to wonder about signs, whispers from the universe. Do they exist or do they exist only because we're looking for them? How do we interpret them? Is it all just one big risk, a leap of faith you take with the hope it will work out? 

And the trouble is, if you don’t risk anything you risk even more. ~ Erica Jong

bittersweet, indeed

I don't like making public declarations. This election has already created divides in my life that I don't know how to begin to mend. But I just don't this is a time for being quiet.

A lot of people I know are talking about this election as bittersweet. We elected the country's first black president. And Californians voted to ban gay marriage in their state while Arkansans voted to ban adoptions by gay couples. In both ballots the age groups 30-44 and 45-64 voted for the bans. Though, in California, the over 65 crowd really made the difference with their overwhelming yes votes. Also in California, the exit polls show that 70 percent of African Americans voted in favor of banning gay marriage with Latinos at 53%. And okay, African Americans only made up 10 percent of the overall vote, and you have to take into account margins of error, etc. Dan Savage has some pretty interesting things to say about this. I'm linking it to his post, not because I agree with him, but because the comments show the range of this issue, particularly with the parallels between the kinds of hate spewed at both interracial marriage and gay marriage. I'm originally from a state where the ban on interracial marriages was still "on the books" until the year 2000 despite the fact that the US Supreme Court ruled in 1967 such bans were unenforceable.

I think a lot of this hatred and homophobia and racism is often supported by people claiming to be Christian, who use the Bible as a way to support their bigotry. This makes me sad because I grew up as a preacher's daughter who learned mostly about love, and inclusion and helping others. This is a message my father still preaches. And I am sad that my feelings about religion, about church, and about Christianity have been mangled by fear and by hatred. It is a side of the table I will never sit on. I will never, ever believe hate is better than love or that fear is better than hope. I think it is wrong for church organizations to campaign and fundraise for causes like Proposition 8. What happened to the separation of church and state?

Some have suggested that we can only expect so much change at a time, that we should be happy with how far we've come. But why is that? Shouldn't we always strive for more? I want this country to be a better place. I want to live without fear of being targeted because of who I love and how I live. Is that such a difficult thing to support?

I am ecstatic that Obama is going to be our next president. But I am deeply saddened and sobered because I know how much more has to be done.