Revisiting Philifesophy with a Smile

It’s been four months since I sat for my comps and defended my exam, which means that it’s been four months since I last read a book and since I last committed myself to the daily grind of doing academic philosophy. Remember when I decided to give myself “a week or two off” and not worry about work but rather really allow myself to enjoy a break and drive across the country with my best friend? Well, the break that was supposed to only be a couple of weeks grew into a month. I thought that when I started summer teaching I would be forced back into a routine that would be more conducive for writing and research. Turns out it was, but in a different way. I wrote more on my blog. And I learned a whole lot more than I would have anticipated from teaching. I did not, however, return to my old routines of doing philosophy.

Instead, in May I found myself at the beginning of new relationship. Although unexpected, as the weeks passed I continued to allow myself to be and feel more like myself than ever before with this one person. Without a doubt, this has definitely been one of the greatest things that I could have done for myself over this summer. In terms of my happiness, my goals, and my hopes for my future, it may have been one of the most important things I could have done as well, for I have learned more about the things I think and write about all of the time–such as experience, affect, trust, vulnerability, identity, relationality–by simply being with and in them than I really thought possible for me right now. And it’s been easy. Super easy.

And very, very fun.

So with respect to the other key elements of my philifesophy, I have been experiencing things that are very important for my life and my research. In my dissertation I want to talk about positive affective experiences that can make us healthier, happier, stronger, more vibrant beings, and fortunately, when I think of the past four months of this summer and this new relationship, such words are constantly apt descriptors along with:  exuberance, gaiety, cheerfulness, laughter, pleasure, and play. All the same words that are central to my philosophy have been thematic of my personal and interpersonal experiences this summer, and perhaps in this way, even though I wasn’t doing much reading or academic writing, this connects back to one crucial part of doing philosophy that I identified back in May–that there are many ways that we can and should take care of ourselves, and that life is necessary for philosophy. If philosophy is the art of life, then it should come as no surprise that to do philosophy well, we ought to be living well, too. One affects the other, and it goes both ways.

It’s a little strange to think of this past summer as a gift to myself, but in a way, it was. I allowed myself to not do the work that I had fully intended on doing, and I surprised myself by directing my attention to other important parts of me that have been wanting to be cultivated for a really long time now. Parts of me that I have been tending to already, but that didn’t yet have their opportunity to grow. When some rich, fertile soil presents itself though, it’s very hard to not seize the day and attempt to put down some roots. Such an act can be scary at times, and there are risks involved (echoes of Nietzsche ring out to me!). And sometimes timing is everything. This time, it worked out. I had long open summer days filled with friendship, dancing, adventures, cooking, traveling, movie watching, and talking. And feeling at home with another person. I don’t know when another opportunity to be so free and open with my time and with myself will present itself. I am so glad that it did. And I am very grateful that I took put myself into it.

So another month went by, and then another month. My summer class ended. And now, the fall semester has begun. I had my first class today, and I have been kind of hoping all along that the routine and rhythm of the fall semester will pick me up and put me back into the swing of things so that I can actually get some “real” work done. Just like I had hoped from my summer teaching schedule. But I am a bit worried that maybe it won’t. Maybe I’ll stay really relaxed, really grounded, really healthy. Maybe this relationship will continue and I’ll continue to feel balanced, playful, and prioritize my time in ways that I wouldn’t have ever anticipated two or three years ago. Isn’t it weird that my “maybes” seem to indicate that these feelings and graduate work are mutually exclusive?

And/or/but maybe this will be the best thing for my writing. Maybe I’ll be writing from a place of health, exuberance, and joy, and that will positively affect the work that I do. (That’s what I’ve been suggesting for quite some time now, so I hope that it is the case…for a handful of reasons.) So, after a good, healthy, wonderful, and replenishing four months of summer, I am trying to prepare myself for a fourth year of graduate school. I feel healthy, excited, calm, and confident. And I am happy. I am smiling.

I hope that things (can and do) continue like this.

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