I’ve been grappling to name a state that I’ve been in for some time.
I finally realized very recently that the state I’m experiencing is appropriately categorized as discontent.
Most days my discontent is centered in the second of the two Merriam Webster definitions above – i.e., I feel a deep sense of “restless aspiration for improvement.”
This restless yearning that I feel for improvement is not just about personal improvement – although I’ll always strive for improving myself. I need – desperately long for – collective and structural improvement for the communities and spaces in which I am imbedded. And as a person who aspires to reciprocity and generosity, I want that same improvement for communities and spaces at large – whether I reside therein or not.
I think I struggled to name my state of discontent because in some ways it’s been a state of productive discontent, whereas generally discontent is disruptive for me.
I’ve been experiencing productive discontent in that – perhaps largely unknowingly – I’ve spent a lot of time in self-reflection to get out of this state because I’m unsettled, unmoored, maybe even agitated.
There is a lot to be agitated about in the world at large, as well as in my professional world of higher education. There are so many tragedies and deaths of Black women in higher education to name – recently Dr. JoAnne A. Epps, Dr. Orinthia T. Montague, Dr. Claudine Gay, Dr. Antoinette “Bonnie” Candia-Bailey, and many more deserving of being named and remembered (For recent commentaries see – Asare, Branch, George; Mitchell, Njoku and Marshall, et al.). And yet, agitation or discontent without appropriate understanding of its origin or cause, as well as its productive purpose or means of dissipation, is problematic for me.
So how am I coming to understand the origin of my discontent and how am/will I dissipate it? Through deep and intentional self-reflection and intentional action.
Self-reflection is often a productive state for me because I grapple with needing to understand, name, and settle in on my feelings, my motivations, my actions. Frequently, I process and understand myself and the world through writing. So, I’ve written profusely in this period – perhaps hoping to write myself out of discontentment. Again, I am centering getting out of the state of discontent understood as “restless aspiration for improvement” and moving away from aspiration and towards a means of intentionally and actively calling into being and contributing to the desired improvement.
While I haven’t fully achieved that, I have written myself into the knowledge and naming of my state and have also written myself into naming and laying out a path towards reclamation of a state NOT centered in discontent.
I’ve been laser-focused during this period of self-reflection because I’m a steady person. One of the people who knows me best describes me as “solid, settled, spirited.” Sometimes the spirited portion seems at odds with the solid and settled to others – but not at all to me.
So, I’m deeply reorienting myself, my direction, and path to reestablish my steady state of solid, settled, and spirited. This necessarily means unseating myself from some spaces and places, as well as leaving some paths to follow the one that returns me to my settled self.
The current reseating and redirecting of paths are leading me where I need to be even as my shifts and moves will perhaps have less than desired reverberations on those with whom I was seated and with whom I was traversing a common path.
Yet, as always, I’ve given myself the freedom to treasure and say farewell to the time and space that led to growth, even as discontent is signaling that “a change is coming.”
I am genuinely excited about the present and coming change…I am authentically motivated to reestablish my preferred state of “solid, settled, spirited.”
As always, if you have thoughts on this or other posts, you can find me on Twitter at @BerondaM.