Physics is something I consider incredibly difficult to understand or even care about really.
But it’s become a daily part of my life for the past several years. You see, my husband has a Bachelors in Physics and starts his Masters program in a couple months.
At first, he wanted to be a medical doctor. It made sense because he was working as a medic at the time. When he told me he wanted to be a doctor I remember thinking, “Well. That means I’m going to have to go back to school to at least complete my Associates.”
And I did.
Then he decided to switch his major to physics and I dropped my head. Now I was definitely going to have to get a Bachelors in something if I was going to be married to a Physicist.
Why did these thoughts cross my brain? I’ve always felt inferior in my personal contributions to society.
I’m the girl who took College Algebra three times, slept in Biology class and skipped most of my senior year.
I got As in English and Choir though.
So when my husband decided to be all fancy and pursue the highest level of education available, I knew my avoidance of college was over for me. I would never be able to stand in a room of all his fancy friends with degrees and feel equal to them.
I’m not saying that’s rational. I’m just being honest.
My husband would talk about all the interesting stuff he learned about physics. I didn’t understand a word of it. But I’d nod along and smile while he ranted about something or other.
I liked talking about my super-smart husband. He was going to be something someday. He studies PHYSICS.
All the while I was working away at my degree in Sociology. Yet, I still couldn’t shake the feeling of not being smart.
It’s something that’s followed me around my whole life really. My brain has always worked just a bit differently than other peoples.
I used to have a huge obsession with World War 2. I read every book in the library about it.
So I was excited when our history unit in middle school was covering the war. Finally, an easy history test!
But the test didn’t ask me about Anne Frank or Corrie ten Boom. They wanted to know the dates of when the war started and ended.
I didn’t know. That’s not what I ever focused on when I read.
Over and over in school I had these experiences. Tests reminded me of how unintelligent I was. I couldn’t recall dates or remember exactly who said what in what speech.
I could write you a really good song though. In the poetry unit for English, I was the only student who ever gave a go at interpreting the poems.
“What is the significance of the spiders?”
“Fear, right? She’s afraid. And also, death. She doesn’t want to die.”
High school became a game. Exactly how many classes could I skip and get away with it? How invisible could I become in the classroom as to not be called on in Biology?
How completely could I block out everyone around me so I could write poems and songs in the margins of my notes?
This same habit of blocking out the world, so I could be left alone to my own interests inside my mind, followed me everywhere.
The world didn’t value people like me. In fact, it hated people like me.
So I worked my fast food job after high school, with no intention of pursuing a “career” or going to college.
Fast food was hard and sweaty work, but I was mostly left alone. I could live inside my head while taking orders and bagging food. I could withdraw to my inner world and just get through my shift.
But when Jesse decided he wanted more out of life, I knew if we were going to stay happy I’d have to figure out a way to keep myself growing, too.
Somewhere in the middle of getting my bachelors, I finally figured out something about my husband that jolted me a bit.
He was going through a rough time and I asked him what he was feeling.
He couldn’t tell me.
Me? I can tell you exactly what I’m feeling at any given moment. Not just angry or sad, but anger mixed with grief. Or joy mixed with pain. Or jealousy infused with happiness.
And Jesse would come home from school telling me about some drama that was going on. He’d ask me to explain why it was happening, why people were behaving the way they were.
I could tell him, and I was almost always right.
I’d have the thought sometimes, “My husband is so smart, so how come he can’t always understand basic human behavior and his own feelings?”
I looked outside of my husband and began to notice something strange. Most of my conversations with friends were about feelings. So many people would tell me their troubles and say, “I don’t know how I’m feeling.”
“Really?” I would think. “You don’t know your own feelings?”
Or they’d ask, “How can people behave like that?”
“Well,” I’d respond. “It’s clear from what you’ve told me that they had a really awful childhood. It sounds like they haven’t healed from that at all and they’re just continuously repeating those patterns. It doesn’t have anything to do with you.”
Over and over and over again, I began to notice all these really intelligent people having very little understanding of the human condition. I’d explain seemingly simple concepts to them and receive comments like, “I’ve never thought of it that way before.” Or, “You know, you’re probably right.”
I began to understand myself more and my place in the world. It’s difficult for me to understand some things, basically all the things they cared about in school, but I understand people. I understand the human heart.
And then, the more I began to explain what I knew, I realized something else…
For some, love feels like physics.
Concepts like empathy and kindness for some people can feel like Jesse explaining a physics concept to me. Love feels as foreign as physics feels for me.
I had an epiphany. All this time, I had failed to see my own value. I had failed to see that I could make contributions to the world.
Because I had bought into the lie that things like kindness, empathy and love were beneath “really important stuff” like physics.
I began to own up to this, realizing that the world is in desperate need of people who know how to love, who know how to be kind, who know how to relate to and understand others who are different than they are.
As humans, we have figured out how to do so many amazing things. We’ve gone to the moon, mapped the stars, dived the great sea in machines, made metal float on ocean waves and still, to this day, cannot figure out how to love one another.
I think about how old the concept of love is. How it’s not a new idea, yet it’s an idea that still has not been perfected in us.
Because the kind of love that changes the world isn’t easy. It takes planning, it takes learning, it takes introspection and constant internal diligence. It takes making hard choices, acting in love in spite of how you really feel.
I look around at the world today and realize there has always been a place and a need for people who love. Our technology is outpacing our ethics on a daily basis. Many of the political questions posed today are questions that need ethical answers, with very little voices to speak to these issues. Could it be that this is because those who can answer these big ethical questions are still comparing themselves to others, like I compared my intelligence to my husband’s?
Yes. I look out and see a world that still hasn’t figured out love, that still needs lovers to teach it the ancient ways of peace.
I see an earth longing, groaning for something that will heal the hurts, stitch together the divides and stand in the gap.
We still need people who can love. Our world is desperate for these teachers.
But I wonder how many of these people are stuck, like I was, undervaluing what they have to offer. I wonder how many people are in hiding because they feel like they cannot compete with those who can take us to the moon and the great depths of the sea.
Yet, we explore, we probe the secrets of the earth and beyond, but cannot figure out how to stop killing each other, much less coexist in peace.
This, to me, is a problem worth solving. And we need the dreamers, the artists, the ministers, the social scientists and humanitarians to help us move towards this goal.
Love is still the answer for the pain in the world today. And there is still work to be done