Jack Giba’s Senior Column: Seeking and coming home to oneself

May 7, 2022


I am a seeker. I don’t believe I can be described better by any other word. I’m constantly looking for things outside of myself, searching for inspiration and direction from books and stories, writers, directors, painters, musicians and athletes. I seek and I seek and I seek — and sometimes, I feel limitless doing so. Seeking seems to be my nature, but if there’s anything I’ve learned these past four years at John Carroll, it’s that the real work to find meaning and stillness within our lives must be done within ourselves, with ourselves and by ourselves. It’s me versus me.

Through reflection, the truth I’ve come to learn is that my first twenty-one years in this life have been about seeking. I was always picking up media left and right, consuming and then attempting to internalize the experience, quoting ideas and thoughts of accomplished people. This is necessary, though — we cannot create anything in a vacuum; we are only able to make what we make because others have made before us; we stand on the shoulders of giants; we are the result of the love of thousands.

When I think of graduating and moving beyond my undergraduate career, it’s become apparent to me that in order to become who I want to become, the next stage of my life will be characterized by a fundamental reevaluation of the relationship I have with myself. I want to come home to myself, to be able to seek inside the things I feel I must look for outside. I feel like I have been away for too long, too afraid of what I may experience within myself. It’s all there — like a fossil waiting to be dug out.

“We know that many of us don’t want to go home to ourselves. We’re afraid. There’s a lot of internal suffering and conflict that we want to avoid. We complain that we don’t have time to live, yet we try to kill our free time by not going back to ourselves. We escape by turning on the television or picking up a novel or a magazine; or we go out for a drive. We run away from ourselves and don’t attend to our body, feelings, or states of mind. We have to go home. If we’re at war with our parents, friends, society, or our church, it may be because there’s a war raging within us. An internal war facilitates other wars. We’re afraid of going home because we lack the tools or the means for self-protection. Equipped with mindfulness, we can go home safely and not be overwhelmed by our pain, sorrow, and depression. With some training, with the practice of mindful walking and mindful breathing, we’ll be able to go home and embrace our pain and sorrow.” – “How to Relax,” Thich Nhat Hanh.

Hanh sums up the internal war that has characterized my life since 2020. There have been periods and bouts where I have been at peace with myself and my relationships and I have felt immense joy and gratification across these four years, but since the beginning of the pandemic, the internal war within me continually rises like a tide. It will pull out and the night will be quiet, but the struggle is my personal Sisyphean boulder that slowly rolls back down the hill into all aspects of my life. At times, it feels inescapable. At times, I’m free from it because I have let myself rest within it. What I want is to go home to myself, to rest, to understand how I am holding myself back, to address the war I often fight with myself. Like Hanh describes, resting within oneself is a state we can enter into; this is a state we can cultivate. We must not be afraid.

We live in an age characterized by over-stimulation and consumption, a reality that we all must attend to and find our own ways to overcome and beat its challenges. Vices are abundant and drugs are around the corner if you want them. In my life, I find more and more the value that my existence has is determined by the principles I commit to and the things I say no to.

I’m saying no to the continuance of my old self, leaving it behind in favor of a renewal. In a time of internal change, there are elements of the old self dying because the new self is in the process of emerging. I feel that very much these days. I don’t know what’s ahead for me, but I do know particular certainties.

I know my life’s purpose is to tell stories. I will die trying if all else. There’s nothing else I would rather do. I feel most at home creating something with my hands, designing and getting lost and found in worlds and tales that teach me about humanity and the undeniable necessity of connection and community. These are things outside of myself that I seek but I know there is life within me that will breathe itself out into my own creations. All I must do to come home is to be with myself, allowing that process to unfold through the cultivated gardens of the right environment and community, guided by a vision of what is truly essential to my life.

If there are a few thoughts I can shuttle along to you that have helped me, dear reader, please consider these meditations I cherish:

“If you don’t know your life’s purpose, then your life’s purpose is to find your life’s purpose.” – Van Neistat

“Il faut cultiver notre jardin / We must tend to our own affairs; We must cultivate our garden.” – “Candide,” Voltaire.

Humanity is able to improve its condition, despite all of our imperfections and shortcomings. We must continue to press forward into the arena.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – “Citizenship in a Republic,” Theodore Roosevelt.

We do not know if there is truth to what we are seeking but we must try. We must. It is all we can do, even if we may never know the answers.

Coming home

It has been my pleasure serving as Opinion Editor of The Carroll News this year and I want to express immense gratitude to all the staff and all of our readers over the years. Through all the struggle and variability, the growth I have experienced by being able to investigate all that interests me in this role has been more rewarding than I could have ever imagined.

I want to thank my professors throughout my four years here — without your guidance, support, and intellectually challenging environments, my mind would not have grown as it has.

I want to thank my friends and the John Carroll community for these past four years. It would not have been the same without each and every one of you. I am sincerely indebted and I will take your lessons forward with me.

Lastly, I want to thank my family and my mother and father for always having my back and supporting me in all my aspirations and dreams. The love I have for you all cannot be quantified.

“These are the days that must happen to you.” – “Song of the Open Road,” Walt Whitman.

Having written this, I feel empty yet full. With that then, all that’s left ahead is the road: to walk it in one’s own time, in one’s own way.

I will leave us with a quote by Rainer Maria Rilke recently relayed to me by my mentor and professor Dr. Metres, a reverie that truly put everything into perspective:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – “Letters to a Young Poet,” Rainer Maria Rilke.

Jack Giba is a graduating senior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He can be reached at [email protected].

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    Carrie BuchananMay 11, 2022 at 9:00 am

    This is wonderful, Jack, and reflects my own approach to life. I never felt I had a choice about it; I have always sought answers that plumbed the depths of who I was becoming. I have often wished I didn’t have to do things that way, especially when life became too complicated or difficult to readily sort out. But in the long run, I think I have fully become myself. I thank you and my other JCU students for helping me to do that, in the end.