01 November 2009

In the eye of the storm

There are times when I can focus while in noisy environments, if I can find the calm eye of the storm. I managed to do that for a little while at work recently-- yes, I can study at work, sometimes-- when someone walked by and asked what I was studying. (Note that "work" is actually at the university where I've applied for admission...)

Me: "Biology."

Her: "Which course? (This number) or (that number)?"

Me: "Oh, um, neither, I'm actually at (the other school that I attend)."

Her: "Oh; well, that's cool. I'm a genetics major."

Suddenly, being able to focus on reading in noisy environments ceased to matter.

One issue I'm having is that I'm trying to find my place; my sense of where I fit, where I belong, where I feel comfortable. For a little while, I felt comfortable in the eye of the storm that was going on around me; I'd found my little protected area and I was okay. I didn't feel larger than life, or smaller than life, and in fact was not concerned with being either. I was just focused on what I was doing.

That focus is hard to attain when you're worried about the bigger picture. The important picture is reading and remembering the material that I'm going to be quizzed on this week. Where my mind went instead, after that conversation, was everywhere else. Will I get accepted? Are my grades good enough? Am I learning enough? Am I smart enough? Does my academic career make a difference when everyone else is doing stuff that seems more advanced than what I'm doing?

Think of a microscope. You want to study a bug; it can be any bug, but for this discussion make it a tiny one. So you put part of the bug under a slide, and you put the slide on the stage, and you focus in on it with a coarse adjust, then you switch in a more powerful set of lenses so you can see the smaller details.

Now focus back out. You can still see the bug-- but you can't get at the details that really tell you something about the bug, like how does it use its wings to fly, or why can its legs stick to glass.
It's not always a flashback from the past that messes you up. Sometimes it's a flash from the present, an image-- a stimulus, perhaps-- that triggers you, and that causes you to react. If you're reacting, you can't get to that calm eye of the storm where you can focus.

It was not that I was interrupted while studying-- there was plenty of noise anyway, and plenty of distractions around me-- it was that a short, simple, casual conversation reminded me of the greater struggle I'm currently in the middle of. I know that I can't be perfect; I can't know everything, I can't do everything, I can't change the entire world. I can't, by myself, defend against all aggressors foreign and domestic.

I'm okay with that.

But I don't know where good enough is.

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