Important questions I've asked in my life

I've been reflecting recently on how I started on my spiritual path. During a sit last week, the first two of these questions came back to me, with the rest flooding in shortly afterwards. Somehow I feel that all of them are deeply connected to my path. And I am sharing them because I think that they say something important about who I am and the kind of life I've lived so far. 

In the 4th grade, I asked, "What is happiness?" At the time, I was living with my father, step-mother, baby half-sister, and paternal grandparents in Baton Rouge. We were living in a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs. The small backyard was full of Chinese vegetables, which my grandparents had planted (they were farmers). The house was crowded and dirty, in my memory. I slept over at my friends' houses frequently and found a lot of joy in that.

When I was in middle school, I asked, "What does love mean?" This was after I moved to Charlotte, NC, to live with my mother, step-father, and older step-brother. I was going through puberty (clearly, based on the question 😂). My mother and father's divorce and subsequently my relationship with both of them was still quite tumultuous at the time. Regarding the question, I liked the First Corinthians—love is patient, love is kind...—definition.

My last year of high school, I asked, "How can I help the world, and how can I make an impact?" I don't know how this question came out, but it did, in my MIT admissions interview. I started crying, which was embarrassing, and the interviewer gave me a hug afterwards. Somehow I still received admission but decided not to attend, although it was my dream school during the application process.

My freshman year of college, I asked, "What did I do to deserve this?" Instead of MIT, I ended up going to Princeton. I remember sitting in a physics lecture, in Jadwin Hall. It was an auditorium-seating room, and beside the stage, through the open door, I saw a custodian cleaning and asked myself this question. I felt uncomfortable with the privilege I had, recognizing the role of luck in my life and feeling like I had done nothing to deserve the opportunities I had been given.

My sophomore year of college, I asked, "Who am I?" and decided to take a gap year. I hoped that I would find myself during my time off, or at the very least, figure out what I wanted to do after graduating. At the beginning, I spent a few months at the Recurse Center in New York, trying to determine if maybe I would like to become a programmer. After my time there, I thought programming wasn't for me, ultimately, but I was influenced nonetheless in a non-coding way by two friends I made at RC (Sofia-Jeanne and Glen). 

The following year, I asked, "What do I like?" During the second half of my gap year, I moved to San Francisco to live with my partner's startup, and my partner and I started seeing Kai for individual and couples coaching. My time with Kai included some reparenting work, which somehow started opening my eyes to all the ways that I had lost touch with my desires and incidentally, myself. This was also the year that I started journaling and meditating more regularly, and around this time, I uncoincidentally stopped identifying as a rationalist (I started identifying as a rationalist sometime after I asked "What did I do to deserve this?").

My senior year of college, I asked, "What is the most important thing?" After turning 23, I went to my first rave, which ended up being one of the happiest nights of my life. I felt absolutely despondent afterwards. In the aftermath, I rewatched The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, my favorite movie, and desperately wanted to understand the answer to this question. I ended up attempting to find the answer through art, in my solo show. Here's the line from my show that I still reference: "What is the most important thing? For me, it was rationality, then human connection, then focusing on my own happiness, and the most recent answer I came up with was 'to live.' But I have no idea what that means." This answer still resonates with me, and I'm still trying to learn how to live in accord with living.

In 2020, I asked, "How can I be so unaffected while my people are dying?" I had a breakdown a month into lockdown. It was impossible for me to keep ignoring the massive suffering of the world, which I had previously sheltered myself from (and been sheltered from). It felt deeply unfair that I still had a high paying job, was able to work from home, and was spending days and nights with my partner. I couldn't understand why things weren't all that different for me, why all the things that I had read about on the news were somehow not touching me. Fortunately, my friend mentioned IFS (Internal Family Systems) on a call, and I started seeing two IFS therapists. That work was and continues to be very beneficial to me, and allowed me to discover a resolve to stop taking my life and my future for granted. 

Lots more to come, I'm sure. 💕


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