I have a strong need for privacy, solitude and personal space. Yet the feeling of belongingness and being in the company of kindred spirits is equally important to me. It’s one of the main reasons why I decided to leave the Philippines in 2006 and headed out to Northern California to pursue higher education at John F. Kennedy University (JFKU).
I wanted to be around like-minded individuals who are also looking for a deep, soul connection that’s missing in their lives. I took the risk of turning my back on my country of origin. I believed, I thought that the Philippines had served its purpose for me.
At the age of 44, I uprooted myself and took the bold step of leaving friends and family, to find the community where I could be a part of and truly belong. I needed a supportive and accepting environment that would allow me to be the person that I am and would like to become. Something I hardly experienced in the Philippines. I don’t appreciate being questioned for the choices I’m making, if only and just because they go against tradition or culture.
For the most part, I experienced what I was searching for. No need to explain my choices. They get me! We aren’t necessarily the same in all ways or we don’t agree in all things, yet they let me be. Being around individuals with whom I shared similar interests and passions is so freeing. I can be me, regardless of the similarity or difference. No big deal. It’s a non-issue. What a welcome change!
Where are they?
Yet, I truly wasn’t completely happy and fulfilled with school life. Something was missing.
As early as my first month in school, a voice in me told me something just doesn’t feel right. ‘What are you doing here Nadine? Is this the right place for you? Is this what you came here for?’ I enrolled at JFKU and headed out to California hoping, expecting, excitedly anticipating to meet and find like-minded individuals but, where are they?
I wasn’t experiencing the kind of connection that I was looking for with my fellow students. I had already done an extensive amount of inner work. I expected my classmates to have done the same but which turned out to be not the case.
I was also already quite clear that my intention for attending graduate school was in preparation for my career in the healing arts. Yet some of my classmates were still so clueless as to what’s next in their lives.
I found out from the program director that not all the students who were accepted in the program are using the degree to fulfill a professional or career goal. Some of them were admitted because they are going through some challenges in their personal lives, wanting to figure out what to do next.
Ahhh….they’re using it as some sort of therapy.
I was a bit disappointed because that being the case, there wouldn’t be as much cohesive and synergistic approach to our studies.
Yet it helped explain why I sensed the disparity in the class energy. I told myself though to just accept it for what it is.
I switched to another program which I found so much more fascinating and fulfilling. More apt. I ended up completing it but not without a similar level of dissatisfaction in my classes. I really wanted more spiritual and metaphysical classes. I wanted to delve deeper into esoteric teachings.
Not long after, I started to feel a void again. I found the classes too academic. I was looking for more experiential and practical applications of what I was learning. Plus, I was getting tired and so bored of having an intellectual conversation about the Divine! I felt so frustrated because I didn’t find the deep connection that my soul had been yearning for.
A program director, a pioneer in the university explained that JFKU is an academic institution, an accredited one at that. While students go through enormous transformative experiences, regardless of the program, the emphasis as well as the teaching style is academic. This, as opposed to a more experiential and shamanic healing style that I, or perhaps others like me, are yearning for.
Given that my pursuit of higher education at JFKU will help meet my professional and career goals, what about my other emotional, spiritual and social needs? How do I maximize my being a JFKU student, at the same time, nurture not only my intellect but my heart and spirit? How can I satisfy my soul’s longing for connection and community? Are there other students who share the same needs and desires?
I am not alone
A most beautiful thing came out of my dissatisfaction. When you’re handed lemons, make lemonade.
I waved my alchemical wand and turned my personal experiences into my final integrative project, a requirement to earn my degree.
I discovered that my longing for a community is shared by many who have a similar desire for connection, of being part of a community in a non-academic environment.
My final project was a proposal for a university center where students as well as faculty, school administration and staff, as well as alumni, can gather and interact in a more social setting, where students learn and grow without the grading, reading, and paper writing. People come to the center with only one purpose:
To be, to connect, and to be in community.
I ended up taking it even a step further. It was no longer part of the final project requirement but I submitted a formal proposal, a white paper. I delivered a formal presentation of the concept to the school administration for consideration and approval.
By the time I left the university and Northern California to head back to the Philippines in 2010, some sort of place of gathering was being set up partly to address the student issues that I brought to their attention. An off-shoot of my recommendation.
Woo-hoo! Of course my little Nadine was so overjoyed from the validation that I received. I have been seen and heard!
But what impacted me the most wasn’t only the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment from having my vision and recommendation eventually come to fruition, in whatever shape and form.
Working on my project blessed me with a deep and most profound insight which has guided me since. And it is a much-needed reminder now as I’m spending my last days on the island of Siquijor, integrating and reflecting on my experiences, preparing for my next island destination, as I move along my journey of manifesting my geographical island home on Earth —
I will constantly search for a community, unless I come to terms with and be at peace first with the community that is within me.
- HELP! I’m unhappy where I’m residing….
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- Learning and Mastering Lessons – What’s the Difference?
- New Way of Living
- John F. Kennedy University
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