Yesterday, my afternoon began in a little yellow sports convertible, with Timor driving way too fast beside me saying, "My family? Oh, well, my family is pretty much white trash or just a step above it." I wanted to slap him a high five for his honesty. Instead, I gave a big laugh at the mutual details of our upbringing and settled into my seat. Under my sunglasses and happy, sun-kissed skin, I looked out at the endlessly enchanting view of the Rocky Mountains in the distance and laughed. From time to time, it hits me that if it wasn't for a series of encounters with a few human angels and a handful of exceptional teachers, then I would not be sitting here, writing this today. I wouldn't be in a sports car, thousands of miles away from where I found my swimming legs, talking about the places where I see myself going someday.
Sometimes, I wonder what life could have been like if I had managed to pay attention and believe the class-based and general expectation that I wouldn't do anything incredible in this life. It occurred to me that this sort of thing is the ultimate lie that human beings believe. Our early self-consciousness and quest for approval can so easily be spun on its head when we're young, turned into the vicious demon of spiraling, frustrating, self-sabotaging defeat. The world is full of formidable adults, who believe their own lies, and seek to instill them into their children. These are otherwise known as abusers. I know them quite well. They need to be self-reflected by imposing their lies on others to feel validated. This is one reason why the vicious cycle of poverty ensues, why, as they say, the "poor stay poor" and trapped in their socio-economic caste, so to speak. It's why a professor of mine who once worked as a public litigator who put away drug dealers and criminals in DC said that he became accustomed to seeing children who were "lost souls forever". But is this really so? Isn't it just all one big lie that we all implicitly buy into this as a way of keeping our society working according to the status quo? Not to sound like a complete socialist, but all of this gives me pause and reason enough to want to undo the myth, to toss all of these lies out with the bath water.
I'm completely cognizant of the fact that my choice to get PhD is not a reflection of my intelligence. Everyone is intelligent in their own, beautiful and powerful way. I'm no smarter than the old guy who always comes out to pump my gas and check my oil for me, even though I pull up at the self-serve and pop the hood myself. He knows more than I do about cars and mechanics. It makes his face shine when he shows me what he knows. Every time he reaches out to help me, he finds his own worth in being of use. It reminds me of Homer in John Irving's "The Cider House Rules"-- "I want to be of use," he said. For me, the PhD is a way of being of use, not a means to an end, and not an end in itself. It's the choice I made to do something that I'm good at doing, and inevitably spreading the joy of doing what I'm good at with others. Perhaps it's not just a professional career, but a life style choice. Either way, in the end I know that what makes all worthwhile is that I never once chose to believe that I was useless. For that matter, walls, rules and proverbial "glass ceilings" are just a construct of mind.
Imagine how much more different and peaceful the world would be if we all stopped believing in the bourgeois, in world's biggest lies?