Jennifer A. Chin (cswallow) wrote,
Jennifer A. Chin

The pull of water

Cold weather descends on Durham, bringing with it a slog of rain and gray. And while I reveled in the warm, spring thunderstorm of last week, I am unamused by this wintry return.

I never know where to begin.

While my thoughts have been drifting about my brain like jellyfish trapped in an aquarium, they never coalesce, never turn substantial.  And now I am here, the thoughts falling to the page in sodden messes. Too much water, no bones.

Drowning. The water goes in and burns. I push hard with my hands and legs, my mouth breaks the surface. I am panicking, instinct kicks in and if there were anyone next to me, I'd push them down to reach air, precious air. Coughing. There's no bottom here, not for a while. The only way is up to the surface, and the only way is alone.
Joe LeBoeuf tells us, "Ask each other how you are doing, and be prepared to listen." I am urged to vulnerability. Yet when I say, "I am drowning," no one listens. Perhaps rightfully; would they too end up drowning, if they thought about it too hard?  Are they already drowning? Instead, I receive platitudes: "You just need to prioritize." "It'll all be over in five weeks." "We're all busy, that's part of the challenge of being a business student." I smile back, "Yes," I say, "You're right." Of course. But that it is not me.

For a week and a half I've been incapacitated. This morning I lay in bed, not wanting to face my day. I know this feeling, and I hate it vehemently. It isn't until tonight that I realize my problem is not about prioritization, nor about the challenge of having too much on my plate. It is about the feeling of losing my mind. Erin Poor used to call me the sponge. Indiscriminately, I soak up every bit of learning before me. New equates to interesting. Somehow in the past days, new and interesting have both evaporated. And I become angry with myself. Six weeks is too long of a time to just get by. One day is too long of a time to just get by. I demand better, and I cannot deliver.

At Fuqua, I've been starting some activities with the COLE leadership fellowship. As part of our opening days together, we made "journey boards" - a big collage with boxes about our leadership values, motivators, reflections, strengths. I hang mine on the wall, and wonder what else I will pin there. Today,  during the AWIB leadership conference. Susan Chambers talked about Servant Leadership. Amy Franko talked about how viewing business as a game allows us to reconcile our values with what we do. And Anne Whitaker talked about sources of energy - personal, mental and physical. How beautiful to hear about their past struggles, how they've coped. They talk about living a deliberate life, a life of intention. Reach out, they say, reach in.

I try to put it all in perspective. Everyday there are people who are wishing for chances like the ones I have today. The ocean I swim in is one of luxury and privilege, many can only dream of these shores, it is the gleaming hotel in the tourist brochure. During our DDCF retreat, Don Wells told us about a time when he came to his wife after having heard a voice during a meditation session. She told him, "promise me two things. First, that you don't feel like you need to do anything about it right now. Second, that you won't dismiss it." He did neither, and after a while, the message of that voice became clear. How wise her words, and how loving. The gift of time. The gift of remembrance.

 I flounder, my arms wriggle, eel-like. I hope I am falling apart. I hope I break on the rocks, and come ashore on the current in a wash of lace and foam. I hope that my feeling of being below water is in fact indicative of my longer journey to answer the questions: What is important? What do I want? Who do I want to be?

My disappointments, my inabilities, my frustration: perhaps I simply need to float in them. Not pushing aside, not trying to fix, but letting the water hold me, and letting myself breathe.
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