Back in 2008 I worked as an academic advisor for an expensive proprietary school. I had been there for three years and I wasn’t happy. Rather than helping students through school and to achieve their goals, my job was to keep them there even against their own best interests. It was not what I set out to do in life, I had no intention of hurting anyone. If the situation called for it, I would advise students to take some classes at a community college until they figured out what they wanted in life. If they still wanted to go to our school, they could come back after taking their general education courses, which were probably about 20-25% of the overall bill. I kept this to myself as I couldn’t imagine that the school would smile upon this practice. Though I only did it if I felt the student really needed help and they weren’t doing well in our classes.
During registration time, the other advisors and department chairs would sit around a table and literally would go through every single student that hadn’t registered for class yet. The Director of Academic Affairs would preside over each minute details of those students. Did the advisor assigned to the student call them? Did they send out emails? Did they try to track the student down in class? Did they text the student? Did the department chair get involved and reach out to the student? It was some form of strange, ritualized stalking that was sanctioned by Corporate. If the student was hospitalized or homeless, we were asked what sort of resources we could provide for them. We would give them numbers and websites for food banks, hostels, and missions. We would give them information for counseling. This was not bad in and of itself, it may have even helped some. But so many of them needed healthcare or help with bills and these were things we couldn’t help them with outside of resources like a nurse hotline. But at no time would it ever be suggested that the student shouldn’t be in our very expensive school. Too many had dropped and we had to staunch the blood flow. The Great Recession began only a few months earlier and students simply couldn’t pay for an overinflated education that they likely wouldn’t ever be able to pay back.
One night I had a dream of a giant ziggurat that reached into the clouds. It housed an entire city of people. It looked like a cross between the Tower of Babel and Minas Tirith. I was flying over it and at first it looked impressive, but in the dream I understood that it wasn’t real. I can recall saying, “This is a virtual city!” The more I looked at it, I came to understand that it was a false construct and that there were faults in the structure. It was crumbling because there was no meaningful upkeep. When I flew close to it, I could tell it wasn’t built from real stone, it was plaster and had been worn by water and wind erosion. It wasn’t going to last long.
During one of those meetings, my mind drifted back to that dream. The only thing going through my mind as other advisors were talking about their students not yet registered, was that the meeting, the school, and everyone in the building were wrapped up in an illusion. The system was crumbling all around them, and no one took notice of it.
If there is a moment where I could pinpoint when I started to Wake Up to Reality, it was in that moment. Today the school no longer exists, my intuition about it was correct. But I left long before it closed. Once I made the realization, I had to get out. I never said anything about my thoughts to my co-workers, but I felt exposed all the same. Like I was wearing an “Imposter” sign on my back. I wasn’t of them.
What happened after that was an eight-year cocooning. I taught philosophy and comparative religion courses online to pay my bills. I didn’t get out of the house often and I built walls around myself. Quite literally. While I didn’t develop into a full-blown hoarder, I could have easily. I turned into a clothes horse and I couldn’t get rid of old ratty things that were twenty years old. It was like I was building up a barrier between me and the rest of the world. I felt hurt from the experience and I did not want to go back out into the wild.
During this time, I didn’t do much to build on that awakening. It’s taken me ten years to realize that it frightened me and that it was a painful experience. Awakening hurts because it puts us at odds with the rest of the world. I began to see that I really do not fit in with what most people call “normal.” I don’t even understand it. What seems obvious to me, so few others see.
During my time of cocooning, two decidedly bad things happened. I closed myself off from the world, and I began to let my ego grow. It seems paradoxical, but it’s actually quite common. I looked down on those that couldn’t see what was so obvious to me. This refusal for others to open their eyes was destroying the world through climate change, economic depression, political apathy, unethical corporate practices, economic injustice, and so forth. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to see that we’re all on our own path. We’re all doing what we need to do to get by in this life. And it’s only recently that I’ve been able to rejoin the world.
I did return for a short stint to academic office life, which was a disaster for me. About eight years after I shut myself off from the world, the classes started to dry up. Student enrollment was down and I wasn’t going to meet my bills much longer. So, I took another job as an advisor for yet another proprietary school. I was desperate for a steady job. This lasted for two and a half years, and I even received a promotion. The set up was actually worse than the previous job, and once I was promoted I felt like I entered hell. What got me through this time were the people I worked with on a daily basis. They were wonderful, caring, helpful, and family, some of whom I am still friends with now.
I feel that I was there to meet one person in particular who changed my life. His name was Art. He had an indomitable spirit and he brought life and light to everyone he encountered. He was a light worker and a spirit warrior. He was a Sun Dancer. He was half Lakota Sioux and he did a lot of work with the water protectors at Standing Rock. He was going to cleanse the new house my partner and I were about to move into when he got sick. He had an upper respiratory illness which kept getting worse. This went on for over a month. And then one day in late April 2017, he died.
I was fortunate enough to be at the hospital with him on the day he died. He was surrounded by his family, his tribe, his friends, and his co-workers. There was drumming and chanting, and people speaking to him with love and light in their hearts. I witnessed the most beautiful process of a person transitioning from this life into the next.
I decided that day that I wasn’t going to waste another minute on a life that wasn’t mine. It was the dawn of my Second Great Awakening, and I set up a six-month plan to raise the money I would need to quit my job and transition to my new life. I walked out that October.
I’d like to say that it was easy and life’s been a breeze since then, but a few woes unto each of us must fall. I entered a period of cocooning again. Though this time it was a much shorter duration and I didn’t remain on autopilot. I started to research Hermeticism, meditation and paganism more. I already had a decent understanding, but I wanted to learn more. I wanted to understand it as a practitioner, not just a researcher. I dove into these ancient teaching. I starting to find the Divine in everything and everyone. I started making plans with a close friend to start a business! I went back and forth between thinking I was crazy and embracing this new life. I had several meltdowns, but I kept getting back up.
There was some back sliding, I wrote about the lost job opportunity on this blog back in July. That came from fear. Not losing the job, but rather trying to get it, as that is not my calling in life. It was another distraction. But the other night I sat on my back porch and started to meditate. I asked myself if now, after all I’ve been through and all I know, could I go back? After my Second Great Awakening, with all the research, knowledge and understanding of the universe and Divine I have now, could I actually go back to my old life and the cycle of work, burnout and cocooning?
No. I can’t. There is no going back to that now. And so…