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engagement personal engagement personal engagement

Heartspace is Our Choice

“There we go. Just little, little hints of things that you can see here. We don’t know where they are. Very quiet little, little, little quiet things. See ’em? See? It gives the impression there’s things back there but we don’t know what they are. And I really don’t know that it even matters right now. Just indications …” 
–Bob Ross

Since we know that Heartspace fully supports our every motion, movement, and thought every single moment of the day, there is literally nothing we cannot do. Literally. There is literally no mountain we can’t climb, valley we can’t hike through, or river we can’t swim across if only because Heartspace fully supports everything we do.

We have all experienced many things in our lives that we thought we wanted to do. My early life was about determination, and for a long time I thought I made many things happen, including seeding a few global movements. Consciously, with my mind, I thought my intentional actions would make a difference, and now I see they did. However, there were things that I thought were important that didn’t happen.

My freshman semester of college is one example. When I graduated from high school, I ran off to college right away. Some of my friends were going to college in the fall, and since I wanted what they appeared to want (good jobs and shiny things) I figured I needed to do what they did. Admitted to a private religious university in the Midwest, I was determined to do well, which I hadn’t done in high school. My parents didn’t ask how I would pay for college, and no pre-college workshops happened at my high school to help me know what to do. I was accepted for all the community work I’d done as a youth, and signed up for all the best classes. That first semester I moved into the dorms like I’d seen people do in the movies and on tv, which were my only examples to work from. I studied and read voraciously, and talked with others whenever I could. With small class sizes, when I started skipping classes the professors personally called me, and I went back right away. The semester flew by, and I earned the highest GPA I had since junior high school. In December I was kicked out.

Nebraska Wesleyan University, the college I thought I would graduate from…

All semester long, I received notices from the university about my tuition being due. I had never had a bill before, and didn’t know what that meant, so I kept going to class. At the end of the semester I went to sign up for classes and was told I couldn’t until I’d paid my bill. I went to the billing department and asked what the notice meant.

“It means you have to pay your bill.”
“How do I do that? Its $8,500.”
“You get a loan.”
“How do I do that?”

There was a long, awkward pause, and then, “You should go talk to the financial aid office.”

I went to talk with the financial aid office, feeling a little panicky. The walls were covered with posters of happy college students, and the person at the desk smiled at me.

“Hi, how may I help you?”
“How do I get a loan to pay my tuition bill?”
“You have to apply for it.”
“I’d like to apply for a loan then.”
“You have to apply before the semester starts.”
“What am I supposed to do about this notice? I want to sign up for classes.”

Another long pause. “You should go talk with the bursar.”

That strange space between words and understanding was something I was used to. Have ambition after coming from a poor family in the hood taught me a few things, like how to measure others’ awkwardness. Going into the bursar’s office, I was asked to wait. Sitting in a hallway with chairs I’d never been in, I grew more aware of the strange space I’d entered. A long hallway bustling with students and staff, I sat there long enough to begin feeling alone and forgotten. Then I was invited into an enormous office.

After I explained my situation and what I’d been through to that point, I asked the bursar what I could do about the bill. She told me I couldn’t get financial aid to pay for it.

“You’ll have to ask your parents to pay this.”
“My parents just finished paying off an $18,000 house over a decade. They can’t help me pay $8,500 for one semester of college.”
“Do you have any ‘angels in the outfield’?”

I think that was the first time I saw air quotes get used. Her voice oozing with practiced sympathy.

As carefully as I could, I managed to ask, “What does that mean?”
“You know, people who could help you pay the bill. Grandparents? A family friend?”
“No, no I don’t think so. How else can I pay for it?”

We sat in silence for a moment, and then she said that I’d just have to get a job and pay for it on my own.
“Can I go to school and work at the same time?”
“Oh no, I don’t think so. You’ll have to take a break until you’ve paid for this.”

It ended up taking me nine years to earn my bachelors degree, and when I did, I graduated from a college that inspired me to do education-oriented work for the next decade. That whole time though I was unsure about my determination and steadfastness. I grew leery of making grandiose plans in my own life, even while plotting to change the whole world through my activist movements.

The Evergreen State College, where I earned my BA.

Learning about the principle of engagement led me to understand that none of that happened by accident. Rather, the universe was determined to show me how I was supported. Rather than race through college and into a career, I worked throughout. This allowed me to stay in touch with my working class roots and to keep figuring out how to do what I wanted in my life. While college teaches some people advanced thinking skills, going about living and learning the way I did taught me advanced living skills. One of the things I learned was that I didn’t need to “make it on my own”. On the contrary I learned the opposite: None of us actually make it on our own! We’re supported by those millions of threads that run mostly unseen throughout our lives, which I understand now as Heartspace. Heartspace ensured that I actually made it through college, and that when I did I would have squeezed everything from that stone that I could. That I did.

We are supported in our every movement by millions of seen and unseen engagements throughout the world inside and around us. What we do is our choice.

Written by Adam Fletcher, this article was originally posted to http://commonaction.blogspot.com. Learn more at adamfletcher.net!

By Adam F.C. Fletcher

I'm a speaker, writer, trainer, researcher and advocate who researches, writes and shares about education, youth, and history.

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