Disclaimer: This post was written only so I could process my own situation and channel my inner turmoil into words. These are preliminary, unpolished thoughts. This post is also incomplete in nature and kind off drifts of towards the end. Discretion is advised.
I function through self-discovery: it is very important for me to be in sync with how my mind and body reflects events that happen to me and around me (which is why I need SO much alone-time to sift through my thoughts and feelings). My quest so far has been largely personal- thinking about who I am, how I am seen in the world, how I can make myself better, what are my spiritual non-beliefs and beliefs, how I process information and my environment, what kind of love do I need in my life etc.
But off late I am struggling with something I’d like to call “meta-questions”. I think a part of my training in grad school has been preparing me for this,of course. Over the course of the past year, I have realized how dissatisfied I was in the direction that the world was going in. Simultaneously, I was learning how to fit in, in a very different culture- although I did not initially recognize it. I did undergo my own sort of culture shock. And I was trying to define myself as someone who is seen as “Indian”, thought of herself as global, grew up on values and books that were distinctly “Western” and was living in a culture largely capitalistic in nature. I was thrust into an academic world of critique, without being prepared for how to counter the caustic and biting narrative of how “f***ed we all are”. Needless to say, there has been more than enough to process and understand in trying to navigate these multiple boundaries and often conflicting roles. Despite all this, I was starting to find a rhythm- a niche of my own, if you will. I was getting comfortable in my skin, in my role as someone between worlds, in my role as someone trying to make the world a better place, whatever that is supposed to mean.And suddenly, everything has changed!!
This is where the “meta-questions” came in. I define “meta-questions” as larger picture questions that feed into who you are as a person but are deeply tied into larger socio-political and economic contexts. I am pretty sure there has been research examining this, if I only had the time or willingness to look it up right now. Since I don’t, this post is likely to be highly intellectually flawed. Feel free to think of it as the random scribblings of a still-evolving grad school student.
In my mind, I see meta-questions (chucking the quotations) as larger-than-life questions, too much for one person to handle individually but nonetheless thrust upon all of us as though we are equipped to take it. We are clearly not. The socio-political environment we function in is too vast, with too many variables for a single person to comprehend in its entirety. But like a butterfly effect, its consequences can crash into us headfirst, leaving us with a mild concussion in the very least (let’s not talk about the worst it can do). Some of us brush aside these meta-questions, choosing to spend our life focusing on some of the more manageable questions (like who do I want to spend the rest of my life with?) or on no questions at all! But others don’t have the choice to ignore these questions- you may stumble into them at some point in your life and wonder how you can function with these larger than life issues nagging in the back of your head.
I have been feeling a little bit of that lately. I find myself thrust into these meta-questions more deeply than I ever was before, simply because the world around me is growing so bat-shit-out-of-sync with the one inside my head. I know that I have to fight it- but it is hard to know how. And that is when it struck me- the first step on the journey of self-discovery is often acceptance. Acceptance of what is happening around you is often misunderstood as surrender to those circumstances- as capitulation, as waving a white flag because your defenses have run dry. But it is not. Acceptance does not mean surrendering your cause. It simply means…seeing it for what it is, even if what it is is unbelievably out of your reach.
In acceptance, you recognize that you are suffering, or that you are fighting without direction, or that you are merely looking for the way UP and out of the water filling your lungs, or that you are puzzled by the world around you in the very least. Accepting may be the underlying foundation on which you build your reconciliation with those dreaded meta-questions. I see this as important to my process- you can argue that there isn’t time to go through all of these steps, and perhaps not! Or perhaps you can plow through them faster than you need to. But in the very least it is important to recognize and accept what is happening before you can fight it.
Okay- I haven’t thought more about this than that. I have lots of questions for myself: what do you do once you accept what is happening? how do you fight it? how do you love and accept yourself in an environment of toxicity that is heading in a direction opposite to the one you would like to see it go? Do you stop caring? Do you numb your emotions, steel your heart and just march forward? Do you challenge the meta-beliefs that cemented your meta-questions? Do you mine into the wisdom of the past, and look for how others’ dealt with them?
Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!