Peace : freedom from disturbance
I like living in or near the countryside. The long dirt roads, vast open fields, wild grass blowing in the breeze, low hanging clouds that pepper the horizon — it is the landscape and its sounds that draw me in and remind me of what peace looks and feels like.
It is the quietness and natural rhythm of the country that allows me to really hear and trust myself.
Ironically, it was that quiet and stillness that unnerved me for a long time. I used to glorify freedom as the ability to travel around, roam, explore new ideas, places, and people. To be stationary and still meant to be trapped.
My escapist view of freedom was actually filler; I got to take pride in saying I was too busy, always with another conference to attend, another meeting to chair, another event to network at, another “anything” to keep my mind and body preoccupied. When I was forced to sit down due to health issues, I finally saw how my view of freedom kept me confined and trapped in the academic industrial complex. My time, creativity, and sense of self were all being restricted, as I tried to meet the narrow definition of “success” for an academic who was also an administrator — it was a box too constraining for my broad shoulders and tall body.
That is not freedom, that is reproduction masked as flexibility. It is an illusion I bought into as a means to escape the reality I was in.
When I literally sat down and faced my reality, I saw someone who was so burnt out the only thing my body wanted was quiet and peace. So, I finally acquiesced and brought myself back to the countryside to find it. In finding my peace I also found my interests had changed, morphed over time into something very different than when I had entered the academy so long ago. The two things could no longer sit side by side.
No sooner had I gotten comfortable sitting in the peace and quiet of the countryside, the spirit of busyness showed up to make sure I was really committed to that peace…
The Unsettling Nature of Peace — AKA The Spirit of Busyness
The cult of busyness has taken over our lives. Even in a pandemic many people have found they are just as, if not more so, over-scheduled, overworked, or just plain bordering on burnout. From Zoom meetings and panels, to online schooling while managing multiple hustles, we have been conditioned to always be “on.” Calendars full, smart devices out and hooked up, social media feeding us information 24/7.
On top of that, we are in the aftermath of the US presidential election, a debacle that shows no signs of letting up before inauguration in January 2021.
I don’t know about ya’ll, but I am bone-ass-tired from it all.
Busyness is exhausting. And it is the furthest thing from peace one can get, because busyness only brings distraction and disturbance.
When we stay focused on keeping busy, we are simply hiding: we hide from the traumas we have endured, stuffing them down to be dealt with another day; we hide from our fears, unwilling to face them we tire ourselves out as a way to escape their shadows. We hide from our dreams, as an on-the-go mind lets us “do” and never “be.” We never get to understand who we are as we grow up and into ourselves.
Like many of us over the last year, I have been forced to sit with myself. Face myself and all the shit attached to the identity I had of “Nicole.” Asking myself harder and harder questions that I ran from for so long, the latest one being: “Why do you stay in this industry if you are so miserable?” My answer: I can’t. So I am not staying in the academy after my contract as an Visiting Assistant Professor is up next June. Once I felt AND made peace with that answer I knew I was starting to commit fully to a more sustainable way of living — a truer sense of what freedom looks and feels like to me.
Are You Sure?
I made a commitment to myself to live a life filled with peace. I wrote it down and signed it to make it even more real. A kind of contract, with and for myself. Part of that contract entailed me writing this post as a declaration of this commitment. And in doing so, I was telling my ego that my soul is taking over now. A peace-filled life means I am true to my soul, doing work that I want and that I know is part of my destiny. Aaahh…
But the minute I made that commitment, I had three emails and a few more DMs from folks sending me job ads for positions I would be “perfect” for! …In various academic institutions across the country…that made me start to question my decision to leave the academy.
Fuck to the That.
Yeah, I would be perfect for them if I was planning to let my ego lead the way. But I committed to peace, which means I committed to being soul-led. And my soul is leading me back to art, music, fashion, and the beauty of the written word. Those things Young Nicole dreamed about so, so long ago. The old jobs make no sense for me anymore. That work would not fill my creative soul.
When you commit to peace, expect temptation to show up; it is there to make sure that YOU are really committed.
What I have found is that I truly value my peace over anything else. To not see my calendar full from dawn to dusk has allowed for more quiet time with myself. Following The Nap Ministry and The People’s Oracle has taught me the value of rest, calm, and what true liberatory freedom-making looks like in practice.
Finally, I choose life.
Make Your Own Contract
If you are ready to be soul-led in your life then I suggest making a contract with yourself. What do you commit to for yourself? Is it peace, quiet, fun, family, wandering? What is that “it” that your soul longs for, and that you have denied yourself by being “too busy?”
Take your time and ask yourself that question over and over again, and then commit to the answer by writing it down and signing it. This is your private soul contract. Once done, expect to be tested as all commitments come with some adversity. Stay the course though, and see what happens after 3 months, 6 months, a year.
You can do it.
As always, thank you to Celeste Ramos for her edits to make my thoughts clearer.