Thursday, June 14, 2007

College and the Rollercoaster.

I walked over to the financial aid office at U.T. today. It's about a half-hour walk which starts out along and across pedestrian-unfriendly I-35. But most of the rest of it meanders through a pleasant part of campus, past my new favorite museum, the Blanton, and a stretch of academic buildings. It's very hot today, and I was hoping for some college boys playing frisbee with their shirts off, but I didn't find any. When I was in college (the first time) boys took their shirts off on hot days and played frisbee all afternoon. Do they still do that? If so, where?

The friendly, well-groomed young man behind the counter in the financial aid office looked me up on his computer and told me that my letter of appeal had been received and forwarded to the "woman who will either say yea or nay." No word yet; it should be a week or two. For some reason, I felt buoyed by that non-news. At least it's not a "no." I really would love to go to school in the fall.

I think I've found my equilibrium again today, after feeling out of sorts since Tuesday, when I was rejected from that drug trial. Friday is the day they post all the new trials, so I'll call tomorrow morning and try again. Even if I'm going to give up this drug trial nonsense and look for a job, it makes sense to do one more. I don't want to start a new job when I'm so far behind with the bills. And I can't make a decision about my future livelihood before I find out if I'm going to be able to enroll in school in the fall. So I'll try for another drug trial while I await word from "the woman."

I had a small epiphany this afternoon on my walk back home. You may get the impression from reading this blog that I worry quite a bit about money. But I worry so much less than I used to, and the worry I experience now is relatively mild. I used to worry myself sick. About money, and about almost everything. I had ups and downs, but the constant backdrop of all my joys and sorrows was a paralyzing anxiety.

About 6 years ago, at a time when just about everything I thought was solid in my life was disintegrating, I changed my attitude about money in a simple ritual involving a dollar bill, origami, and a campfire. Despite the fact that I had very little faith in the hocus-pocus (I was practically rolling my eyes), it worked. Not once since that night have I let myself feel the kind of deep despair I used to feel about being broke, in debt, and without prospects. Now I experience my financial insecurity in a more reasonable way. It's just something that comes and goes. Sometimes it demands more attention than other times, but it's temporary, and freaking out doesn't help.

And I've always had an acute fear of heights. But in the last 6 or 8 years, I've been tempting it, experimenting with it, pushing against it to see what happens. And I've found that I can often talk myself into experiencing that rush of fear as I approach a steep cliff, or look over a high-rise balcony, in a different way. Physically, fear is the same as exhilaration, so why not experience that rush as a thrill instead of terror? Little by little, I've been retraining myself out of my fear of heights.

I figured this out when I was wondering why, if I'm afraid of heights, I'm crazy about roller-coasters. The thrill of a roller-coaster ride is being forced to look right into my fear, knowing that the situation is controlled, that it isn't going to last forever, and that I'm not really in danger. There is a risk of harm, people do die in roller-coaster accidents, but once I'm strapped in, it's too late to do anything about it but surrender and enjoy it. If the thing is going to hurtle me head-first into the pavement, I'll have nothing to say about it. The moment when I make the decision to ride is separated from the moment of peril.

So it's about surrendering. I feel better when I have surrendered.

Back to my epiphany: as I was walking home from the financial aid office and thinking about how yesterday I was so strung out and today, after talking to the guy at the financial aid office and not really getting any news that should reassure me, somehow I felt much better, it struck me how arbitrary the anxiety is, how truly unconnected to anything real it is. And I remembered my fear of being broke, and my fear of heights, and how I have virtually talked myself out of those fears, and I realized that I could treat all fear the same way. I can decide to experience it differently. Instead of being afraid because the circumstances of my life seem so precarious, I can enjoy the thrill of it. Like a roller-coaster ride.

No money for the rent! OooooooooaaaaawaaaaaaAAAAH!!! Need new glasses desperately but can't afford them! eeeeeEEEEEEEAAAAAA!!! What the fuck am I going to do with the rest of my life??!! YyyaaaaaaAAAA!!!!!!

I think it's working.

2 comments:

Jay -or- Jay Byrd -or- James Dean Jay Byrd said...

The Shoal Creek hike & bike trail along Lamar Blvd. has a frisbee-golf course as well as some topless volleyball courts. Also, you might try Duncan Park on 10th St. between Lamar & West Ave. It's a inner-city dirt bike trail which is always "crawling" with topless trade!

Jay -or- Jay Byrd -or- James Dean Jay Byrd said...

er, an inner-city dirt bike trail...