In Paris there is a place near Notre Dame called Point Zero. (Sounds better if you use the French accent.) The point used to (allegedly) be the starting point of all of the roads from Paris. Legend has it that if you set foot on this spot you are destined to return to it.
My education is my Point Zero. I am forced to measure everything from it despite it being a moving target. And even though my life encompasses much more than my CV can contain, my mental Point Zero has always resided at the letters that fall after my name. It’s the one thing that I know I can do and do well.
Over the past week, I have had this nagging sensation in my head that either means I forgot to do something important like put on a bra or that I have a life-changing decision on my mind. Turns out that I had a bra on (at all pertinent times), but that I needed to decide to stop being everything all at once and revisit my plan of doing ALL THE THINGS.
I enjoy doing all the things. Truly and fully. But I also don’t half-ass things that I love and care about. (I do half ass laundry.) Therefore, barring receiving a full time teaching job that I applied for and that might require my continued education, I’m going to take a leave of absence from my PhD program for now.
You can always set your foot on Point Zero.
There. I said it. I feel like I just admitted to murder or something. Simultaneously I feel dirty and emboldened. Burdened and free.
When I make one of these decisions to let something go I have to acknowledge the thing I’m giving up. I also usually have to let go of my bull-headish way that I need to do so much in the span of a day, a month, a year, etc. I scream and yell and piss and moan and call out the Universe for its infinite unfairness and then I express intentions to move forward either way.
All things are measured from Point Zero.
But as I was applying for loans so I could do this full time and making plans and thinking of research proposals, I started to question the value of what I was doing in my life right now and five years from now. Could I be fulfilled without it? Could I do it justice? And then reality came pounding on my door despite a very strongly worded NO SOLICITING sign. I couldn’t make a 24 hour day fit enough within its confines to make it work while maintaining all of the other things I love. It was either do this 100% and give up my sanity or not do it at all. I’d rather not do it at all. For now.
You will always return to Point Zero.
I cannot give in easily. I’m sure it’s some sign that I’m more damaged than I ever imagined. Perhaps this is is a bad thing, but it’s also that part of me that ensures that I’ll do more than just coast through life. It’s hard to downshift from having a white knuckle grip on ambition and truly appreciate that the ride might have to be enough right now. I need to get hurt. I need to let that hurt rattle around inside of me. And then I need to take that pain and frustration and learn to see through them and not just past them.
There’s a time and place for fighting the Universe and its long string of injustices. But now is not the time for that battle. Now is not the time to prove I can. Maybe for once in my life it’s time to prove that I can’t. Or that I won’t. Or that I’m fine with going without. Goddamn that sounds so zen of me.
Point Zero will lead you home.
When I first landed in Paris I made certain I stepped on Point Zero. When I was drawn back to Notre Dame by friends I met in school, I stepped on it again. It seemed like I needed an extra dose to ever bring me back to the City of Lights. It’s been eleven years since that second visit. I haven’t returned. And although I’d love to, I don’t feel like I have to. I set foot there. I know I can return. I know that it’s not as easy as saying I want to, but it’s not as hard as I’d let myself make it out to be.
Maybe my PhD is like that. I’ll set my foot on Point Zero right now. Tap it for good luck. And if my road never leads back to Paris, I’ll have to enjoy the time I had there in the recesses of my mind on a cloudy day when I dream about what could have been in a moment between what is and will be.
You are your own Point Zero. You are the point from which all roads start and end.
Never forget it.