Author  Xuan Ooi

I’ve been home in South Florida ever since DRBU made it mandatory for all students to shelter-in-place elsewhere. While this occurred six months ago, I still remember splaying out on the bed in my dorm room, waves of sadness crashing in my chest, knocking me breathless. Just a few days ago, I reread my old cohort’s notes that wished me well. These were a part of an activity I organized for our spring cohort gathering. Little did I know that those notes would also be our parting gifts for each other. I graduated with my Master’s degree from DRBU on Zoom and am currently continuing my time at DRBU in the Translation Certificate Program.

I’ve only left my house and backyard one time so far. I admit it, I’m privileged to be with and be taken care of by my mom and three younger sisters. This has left me with a significant amount of time to reflect upon myself—to think and overthink. What comes to mind is “Not Enough Brains to Survive” by Thomas Lerooy, a bronze statue depicting a man in the nude; his astronomical, disproportionately-sized head is upside down by his feet, straining his contorted neck. His mouth is slightly agape. A stream of tears trickles down his face from his left eye, defying gravity. It’s a dramatic hyperbole of my general state of mind, but it feels appropriate.

I wondered why I resonate with this graphic depiction, and an answer dawned on me earlier today. My sisters and I often play musical chairs around the house, claiming dibs on certain rooms and desks, swapping on a whim. I’ve just realized that whenever I settle in a new spot, I would bring items that I thought I needed to have around me, though they were never items I absolutely needed. I’ve left miscellaneous piles of clutter around the house in my wake. It is as if I appreciate being surrounded by things just for their inanimate company—a cardboard box holding an empty binder and scrap paper by my feet, knick-knacks I have never touched or needed around the perimeter of the desk, wrappers of pain relief patches in a stack. All useless things that I don’t mind. A pile of things I add to, only shifting them from one place to another.

As it is outside, so it is within. I entertain my endless what-ifs, occasionally lay in bed replaying the past, and accumulate enough subtle irritation to snap at my sisters. Like Lerooy’s statue, my head has become weighed down by these regular guests who clutter up my clarity and potential for peace and focus. And to think I ever wondered why letting go was so difficult to me! I was told something over a year ago, “Maybe the journey ahead would be easier if you learned to let go of what you keep here.” The “here” unsurprisingly, was my heart, where I engender constant movement, negating every moment I get closer to stillness. I collapse the infinite into precarious paths that lead only to dead ends.

Where do I go from here? How do I pay respects to my inner clutter in order to grant its peaceful departure, Marie Kondo style? How do I let these thoughts arise and let them go on their way? There is no shortcut to these inner musings, but the answer is short: patience, practice, and time. While walking the path of these concepts, I’ve learned that there is no way to intellectualize and trick myself into being apart from where I am. There is no “there” or destination to reach that lies outside of the very next step that I take—the step that may be the one that includes picking myself up from where I stumbled. That alone took me months to conclude.

For my journey onward, I’ll actively bring forth and remind myself of loving-kindness, which opens the door for me to permit myself to be patient, to permit myself keep practicing, and to permit myself to give myself time. By attending to this, may I open my heart and mind to my potential, to being present, and to being able to appreciate every moment as it is. To everyone who happens to read this, I hope you are doing well and advancing in your own journey forward!