Wednesday, March 2, 2011

What matters most to me and why

A friend asked me this question a while ago, and I thought I'd share my reflections. I find myself continually re-asking myself about what my priorities are.

I operate and think in numbers, lists, properties, definitions, and subdefinitions. So, in its most basic form, the answer to this prompt, is “I = i + c”- read as what is most important to me is the sum of what is most important to me as an individual (i) and me as I relate to the world (c).

As an individual commenting in regards to my autonomy and self-sufficiency, my health is the most important thing. On one hand, my health reflects my upbringing; malnutrition and hunger were never a concern. Because of my good health growing up, I was able to be more attentive in class, and better aprovechar of my education (more on that later), rather than worrying about dysentery or a grumbly belly. More importantly, I appreciate my health for another reason-

It’s no secret that I love to run. My long runs on the weekends are sometimes the one thing that gets me through the weekdays. According to the Myers Briggs Type Indicator, I’m nearly all “E” and little “I.” Growing up in a big family, perhaps I learned early on how to be away from it all and think, while still being active. I don’t pray regularly; I journal sporadically; the thought of having “alone time” normally makes me anxious. But thinking is so clear and easy when I run. I can escape for hours with just the pavement and me. Some think with pen and paper while writing, some with a guitar playing music- for me its with a sports bra and tennis shoes, logging miles one after another.

My thighs are big. My butt is bumpy. And my legs are awkward and gangly- and I couldn’t be more proud of the thousands of miles they’ve run, and the thousands more they’ll go.

But, I cannot function in the world as one, singular, unrelated part. In the words of Desmond Tutu, “My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human beings together.” So, basically- cast out those last 300 words as filler, superfluous, extra, but not necessarily unnecessary. After all, my legs and the miles they go, consequential of my good health, are incredibly important to me and my well-being.

(photos- sisters and brother in the photo on left, my 1229 community here in Tucson on the right)

I am who I am because of the community that surrounds me. Wrapped up in the importance of community, is my family, my education, my friends, and of course- love. To me, the definitions of all of those are wholly dependent on one another.

I attended some of the best schools in the city growing up- connecting me with other curious spirits along the way. Education impassions my community. Questions and inquisitiveness intrigue me. Through my education, I have learned one thing to be fact- there are few facts. Beyond scientific laws and mathematical formulas, little is as simple as cause and effect. Now, if you recall from my introduction, I appreciate the tangible, the predictable, the algorithms, the traceable, and the cause-and-effect relationships. So, needless to say, the more I learn, the more the way I’d like for the world to be and how life actually is collides.

It would be nice and mathematically sexy if your actions and my actions and his actions were directly related in a predictable quadratic equation of a sort. But, both of us have our lives behind us, filled with the crapshoots, the pitfalls, the ecstasy, and all of the places in-between. All of those stories, experiences, and interrelated webs of human existence completely fuck over any notion of predictability, formula, black-and-white, or binary code. But, as a community we continue to function. We continue to question each other, to converse, to build relationships, and to educate ourselves.

When I was younger after a fight with one of my sisters, I’d swear off speaking to them forever and ever. My mother, upon hearing that, would remind me- “cherish your siblings, because someday they may be all you have.” But, in a way, my mother was mistaken. It’s not that family is all I have- its that family is what I have that knows all of me. From the five year old ballerina, to the fifteen year old actress, to the twenty-two year old lacrosse player, my family has been around to celebrate with my and cry with me. They’ve seen me broken and they’ve seen me whole, and continue to love me.

My friends chose to stand beside me. They chose to grab my hand for a boost up, and to grab mine when it was extended. Friendship is built through laughter, through visiting a grave together, through stories, through experiences. We are all tied together through relationships; humanity is not an isolated occurrence.

I have a tattoo on my right ribcage that says "love." The tattoo itself serves as a visual reminder to myself about that word, that action, that commitment I've made to love myself and love others. Love is not something tangible, touchable, nor embraceable- but it is hidden within all of that. I speak of love in all of its forms- agápe, éros, philía, and storgē. As a community we are nothing worthwhile if we fail to love one another. "And the greatest commandment is this, to love your neighbor as yourself."

As a closing, I’ll leave you with a quote from Ellie Roscher, taken from her book that I just finished reading, about her reflections on a year of service in a very isolated community in rural Uruguay- “Community matters. Relationships matter. It makes life more bearable, more enjoyable, and more beautiful.”

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