Sunday, July 10, 2011

Just being

It’s not taking me too much time to get used to the idea of having a month off from work. Years ago, I would never have taken such a long vacation from work. The idea did not appeal to me at all. Now, having large blocks of time off from work is what appeals to me the most. How we change as we get older. Or is it the circumstances of work that change us? Is it that we realize that there is no real point in giving up most of our waking lives to workplaces that do not really notice our loyalty or dedication? You could be there for sixty hours a week or for forty hours a week and the workplace won’t notice or reward you. Or it will reward you regardless—meaning that you and all the other members of your union will be rewarded equally, with a three percent pay raise, and you might get an extra percentage point if your bosses think you did a good job. But unless you’re completely hopeless, everyone will get the extra percentage point, so it doesn’t really ‘count’. These days, it’s all fine with me. After a pretty disappointing and sad work year, I’ve accepted what I thought I never could accept—my limitations—and I’m fine with that. I’ve let go of my unrealistic expectations concerning my career future without resigning myself to the fact that it had to be this way. I chose this path I’m on now; no one chose it for me. I’ve accepted my limitations and I’m happy. I’m not a top scientist, I’m not a union leader or even a board member, I’m not a group leader, and I’m not really marketable to the work world at large anymore. I am a good person, a kind person, and I am a good boss. The people who’ve worked for me tell me that. It’s finally getting through to me. I was a good leader to those I had responsibility for mentoring a few years ago. I did the best job I knew how to do. I was available for my team and I worked hard with them and for them. I wanted them to succeed. And they have, just not in my sphere anymore. They’re on their own, making their own way, as it should be. And me, I’ve let go of my desires to want to keep them around me, to keep my team intact, to ‘grow’ a group. It was hard, it was sad, sometimes it felt like it was impossible to let go. But I did. Want to know something? I’m happy. I’m happy just being me. I like who I am. Kindness and compassion are at a premium in my profession; I'm glad I have both. 

Just being. It’s a nice expression. Peaceful, soothing, like listening to water gurgling in a running brook or listening to birds chirping and talking to each other. I find that I so look forward to the sounds of nature now—be it the birds, or cats, or dogs, or even insects. They are ‘just being’—just being themselves, chirping, meowing, barking or buzzing. They do what they do to the best of their ability, yet they are unconscious of their ‘being’. We are conscious of it, and we can choose to ‘just be’. We can choose to slow our minds down, to empty them, to fill them with peace and happiness, to shut out unhappiness and negativity (foisted upon us by others who want to dump on us, possibly because they want others to be miserable like they are). The media are great at the latter. Not a day goes by without them reporting a story that is bound to irritate, provoke or otherwise depress us. Whenever I see a ‘nice’ story, I gravitate toward it now. They are so few and far between. Sometimes I forget that the world is actually an ok place—that there are not murderers around every street corner, or terrorists at every airport, or robbers waiting to mug me at every turn. Does it mean I should not be careful? No. It just means that I can be careful and still have a smile on my face when I greet the world at large.

I look forward to ‘just being’ during my vacation. By that I mean, having no work expectations, no pressure, no stress, no grant or article deadlines, no phone calls, and no work emails. My free time will be spent reading, writing, taking pictures, walking, biking, cooking, boating, traveling, and visiting family and friends. Not a bad way to spend four weeks. We have a lot planned, but it’s all fun and it’s all good. And my attitude toward vacation and free time tells me that I won’t have a problem retiring early when that time comes. I will ‘let go’ of more and more with each passing year. I have a tendency to be that way—to see things coming and to try and be a bit preemptive, so that I know that I am ‘choosing’ my path. From here on in, that’s my path—to choose my path. And I am choosing to ‘just be’ in this world, in my world, in my life.

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