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12 July 2010

Where do you want to be today? Tomorrow? Next week?

I've spent a good deal of the summer break so far working on things that are related to college; examining the last semester, figuring out what went wrong, doing research on learning, and looking at adaptive technology.  That, in addition to cleaning up my apartment and starting to pack, since I'm moving close to campus.

I still live, depending on time of day and especially traffic, a 25-30 minute drive away from campus.  I am generally happy when I am on campus (including work, which is on campus), and I am generally not happy when I leave campus to go home.

The explanation I've come up with is that my apartment, and my neighborhood, are the place where I landed when I first moved here.  I was broke and in the midst of a divorce.  I've also had stuff happen here-- not bad stuff per se, but I've been here during times that I have done a lot of work to move past.  So there are negative feelings associated with being at home that have built up over time.

I seriously like being on campus.  When I'm there, I'm surrounded by good things like research, education, and people who are really motivated to do awesome things with their lives.  "Positive energy" is a good way to describe the feeling.  Even on a bad, stressed, no sleep and too much caffeine kind of day, things are still headed in a positive direction.

There's an article at the LA Times that talks about a related effect, that happiness or sadness spreads from one person to another in much the same way as infectious diseases spread (there's a link within the article to the actual results of the research, or you can go straight there.)  I wonder if it might be the same effect as me being happier on campus, where people in general have an upbeat mood towards life, versus me being at home where many of my memories are of being stuck in one place, not being happy.   The sadness, the unhappy, still hangs in the air at home.


Much of my life has been about hanging in the balance; one foot on the good side, where I want to be, and one foot on the bad side, which I'm trying to get away from.  Heaven on one side, hell on the other.   Happy here, sad there.  Sometimes the chasm has grown wider, and I've had to choose a side to keep from falling.  Often the choice has been putting the other foot on the side I didn't want to be on.


Is there a cure, and end to the struggle?  I don't know.  I do know that it takes more energy and determination to take one foot off of the solid ground that the bad side offers, stand on one wobbly foot for a minute, and then put both feet down on the good side.  It's easy to stand firm on the bad side, and look over at the other, wishing you were there.


Healing is a process, I think-- one of the steps in that process is putting yourself in better places, a little at a time.  A college campus, I've discovered, is a pretty positive place.  It takes a little while to adjust to that, to adjust to being around people who think anything is possible and plan to prove it (especially when you've been around people who think the opposite, people who think the purpose of the universe is to make life miserable).


PTSD is static, it's an obstacle, it's the wind pushing you away from putting both feet down on the good side.  It affects your concentration in class or at work, makes you late, makes you angry, hangs you up on stuck points, keeps you awake at night.  The secret is that many times, you can't get there from here-- it takes a series of small steps, each one a journey of its own, to get from point A to point B.


Several of those small steps (for me, anyway) have been moving away from the part of the world where things are sad, and negative, and unhappy to a place where things are positive and if not happy, at least closer to happy than sad.  Moving from my current apartment and neighborhood is one of those small steps, one which is likely to have a large impact.

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