August 19, 2014
So, one year ago this happened. It was August, and I was wearing my lucky gold dress, and I had super short hair, and for the first time I met the cohort which marked my life in such profound ways this past year. When this photo was taken my heart was racing and I was repeating to myself over and over that this whole thing was a good idea and legit I was about three steps away from bursting into tears or turning right back around and driving back to Chicago because I was so scared of what was next and all the unknown about this journey. And then in a act of courage that still amazes me, I did none of that and instead walked like an extrovert into a room of strangers with quaint accents and…the rest is history.
Looking back with the perspective that only time can give, I’ve been thinking today about things I would tell that Lisa if we could have a quick chat…what wisdom or humor I would give her to bolster her spirits and make her smile. I wish I had something profound and pithy to write (you’d think being a doctoral student for a full year would mean profound and pithy flow from my mouth like water from Niagara Falls…yeah, not so much) but I think all I’d actually tell her is that life is crazy in that we are all more braver than we can imagine but we never find that out unless we make a ruthless resolve to say yes, no matter what. I’d tell her she is indeed worthy of this new chapter and the very things she thinks are what will isolate her from people are her are her greatest assets. No one needs her to be perfect and heady and astute…they just need her to be herself and that is enough. And, I’d tell her to relax, to forget about saying all the right things or looking smart, and to savor the company of others and drink so so deep of their stories and experiences and just their physical presence because there’s nothing like the shelter that is being in close proximity to a good friend….and all of these people will very soon be good friends. Oh, and I’d say relish all the supervisor drama because it turns out alright in the end but there are some crazy-reality-show-worthy twists that happen in the lives of others and it’s not to be missed!
If I could have a quick chat with this Lisa of the past I’d also ask her to tell me about just what in the world I was going to study…how I was going to change my tiny corner of academia for the better and remember again the ideas that once sounded so compelling. As I too am on the cusp of a new year, not afraid so much as overwhelmed at the largeness of the research world and my own freedom to go where I want. I do not question whether I can do it, rather I question how I should narrow and root down and what I actually should give myself to for these next few years. There is a very large part of me that wishes Lisa of next year could come over for some wine and let me know a couple gems of wisdom and maybe slip me the perfect research question scrawled on a post it note.
But…such is life. The adventure is lived in one direction and only understood looking back in the polar opposite. And then hopefully it’s a dazzling view. So, here’s to being thankful for another year, and saying yes/trusting that the future will open up when the time is right.