on a community college campus in Queens, New York.
It’s feels like it’s been a million years since I was in a wholly neutral space, a space devoid of complications. There are no distractions or temptations, no interruptions, no traffic noise, no difficult positions or uncomfortable temperatures. There is, in fact, nothing of particular bodily, emotional, or intellectual importance here.
It’s a kind of miracle.
There is nothing more precious than disconnection when one lives in the city. This sort of thing is almost impossible to find, almost unheard of. It’s only because I’m a college instructor with keys that get me into places like this that I even have the experience.
It’s tough to get perspective from within the wild, frenetic confines of everyday life, always tugging at you in multiple directions. Even your “own” space is so full of your own personal status quo that it appears to create a kind of ideology of the self that is difficult to overcome, that makes clearheadedness or unbiased thinking almost impossible.
What am I doing here?
Is this adjunct lecturer and budding academic thing really working out? Is it, in fact, time to move on? I keep hearing my wife’s questions about stability and comfort; they’re echoing through my head.
Sitting here in this quiet area with the first real break I’ve had in months, where there is nothing to do even if I wanted to and no-one to stop me from doing it even if they wanted to, I realize just how much of my life has become stoicism and struggle. What I do, mostly, is grit my teeth and press on, steal a nap here or there, feel guilty for being behind schedule, and do my best to catch up without completely throwing quality or integrity out the window, though I know I’m never doing my best work anymore and maybe haven’t for years, simply as a matter of always being rushed, distracted, and overinvolved.
It’s a sort of anti-Zen existence, if there can be such a thing. There is zero peace, zero centeredness, zero freedom from immediate desires or needs—in fact, it seems as though life has become nothing but a series of rapid emotional-intellectual reactions or reflexes. I am that automaton of popular literature, simply tottering about manically according to my “programming,” trusting that someday I’ll wake up and be a person once again.
This all sounds horrifically dramatic, I know.
But maybe it’s time to reconsider the New School. They haven’t really done anything for me lately, and these days whenever I say the words I almost feel as though I want to spit teeth in frustration.
And maybe it’s time I think about writing again. I know I never made enough money at it, but maybe now I’m better equipped, more mature, can write things that more people actually want to read, and can do my part to market them more effectively.
God knows I miss writing.
I don’t know what tomorrow will be for; the list of things to do is many seasons long. I do know that this has been an incredibly precious twenty minutes, sorely needed, and almost not discovered.
I need more of this—more silence, more walls, more empty spaces, more of the incredible freedom of enclosure, unmovement, and isolation. It helps me to think, to make head or tails of the universe.
I just don’t know whether it’s possible to get it on anything like a regular basis when one lives in New York City.