Jaime C Vaca

Patterns and Habits: What do you notice about the ways you choose to move through the world? How do these versions vary based on a given context (i.e., difference between work & home, childhood & adulthood)?

I had seen this reflection on movement sometime earlier in the week, but the daily drudgery forced me to put it aside. Imagine the irony, where reflecting on movement became victim to the forced movement of a day. Besides, what could I really add to the idea of movement?

I never stopped to notice how much of my life is movement. Sometimes linear, sometimes cyclical, and more often than not neither of these. Thoughts move. Emotions move. I move. And so I retrace my daily steps. An early morning barefoot walk on a cold wooden floor before anyone is awake just to serve myself some coffee and make my children breakfast and lunch. My day commences with movement.

I don’t just move at home. I move at work. It’s a slow painful walk from the parking lot into the building where I’ll punch some numbers to let the world know I’ve arrived. Sometimes this walk is accentuated by a student waving. Then there’s more steps in the cold into a classroom that has become a home of sorts. It is here, underground, in a school cafeteria where most of my movement will take place during the day.

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I find it difficult to distinguish between the movement of my thoughts and the movement of my body. Do my thoughts move at the pace of my body? Or does my body move at the pace of my thoughts? At times, it seems like my thoughts and my body move at different speeds. Doing one thing, maybe something physical, can mean that the body moves fast while thoughts lag behind. Other times thoughts far outpace my body, now a symptom of age.

Too much to think about and the students are here. They move. Some days we are nomads; a class without a defined classroom space. And we move dragging our feet from the cafeteria to whatever place is available. Wherever we land, I know I will have to move frantically because I must try to be in as many heads as possible. I can only move here, at school. Outside I am an introvert. I will try to walk down the aisles of stores and crowded city streets with the specific intent of going unperceived by strangers.

I think about movement in my past. My formative years were a continuous movement. At the insistence of my parents, I moved forty-two miles daily. This was a round trip from my neighborhood to a school in a different neighborhood, which could theoretically afford me a better educational opportunity. Days seamlessly blurred into nights, which would in turn quickly become mornings. In retrospect, these were the days that taught me I didn’t need to see the sun to know it was there.

Perhaps the most exciting form of movement occurs when we travel. Travel, whatever the reason, is the ultimate form of movement. Think of the audacity, humans, these relatively insignificant specks in space, daring to move great distances in short amounts of time. This movement is also in the past. All that exists of this movement is the nostalgia, the happiness of being home in Mexico. Money, or lack thereof, serves as an impediment for this movement, but nostalgia affords me the opportunity to travel in thought.

Tell us a personal movement story that has stuck with you. What clues does it offer you about who you are/were/strive to be?

A few days ago, my boss asked me if I would like to move out of the cafeteria and I declined. The one thing that being in the cafeteria affords us is the opportunity to move. There will be distractions in both, but classrooms are a confined space. Down in the cafeteria we can move.

The importance of this was reaffirmed just yesterday. A student was working on an independent task. While reading, he asked if he could move, meaning walk around, so he could think. In my students, I also see this connection between body and brain. They have to pace to digest information. I think of how often we’ve forced students to stop their own movement for compliance. How erroneous we’ve acted.

Reflecting on this, to move is to feel alive. Forced stagnation, whether of body or of thoughts, feels like death.

Barriers and challenges: What are some barriers or challenges you face or have faced that have impacted your access to a movement of choice? How have these influenced your thinking about your body in the world and the role of movement in your life?

Numerous barriers impede my movement. There is the lack of money that forces me to prioritize necessary movement over travel. Age and lack of energy can, at times, become another barrier. And then there are the social barriers that serve to remind me that I am an outsider in most situations. I think especially of those formative years where I really felt like I didn’t belong. I still feel like this outsider in many social situations.

Undoubtedly, the greatest impediment to my movement is fear. Fear is the great paralyzer. I live with the constant fear that I am not good enough. Not good enough to teach and not good enough to be loved. I think of how something that I thoroughly enjoy can be limited by fears. For a few months, I have been fearful to load a barbell with heavy weights, mostly because of an injury that occurred over the summer. Fear stopped this movement, just like it stops the more important movements in my life.

Connections: Physical movement can be a useful metaphor for any number of things. How and in what ways do you use your movement choices and experiences to make meaning in other areas of your life?

I hate running, but nothing releases endorphins like a run. Running is the metaphor I use for how I approach challenges.

Often times, anxiety and fear cripple me. This is the direct result of my brain’s instance that I focus on everything that could go wrong. It’s this macro view that forces me to see things as a series of scary what-ifs. What if this goes wrong? What if I make a mistake?

Running destroys that lie. Running doesn’t allow me to see the destination. It forces my attention on the first step. And then the next one. Once the run is complete, I look back with gratitude at my accomplishment. Running changes my perspective from a fearful existence considering a never ending list of what-ifs, to a more realistic vision and appreciation of the what is. When life gets difficult, I run one step at a time until I reach my destination.