September 9, 2016
Disclaimer: This post was written initially as a reflection piece for Athabasca University 806: Doctoral Research Seminar.
Growing up as a child of the 1980’s, I was a massive fan of The Muppets. The Muppet movies from that era (in good old VHS complete with fuzzy bits) were on repeat and I could (and actually still can) recite almost verbatim most of the dialogue. Though this personal eccentricity seems like it has no relevance to Lisa-of-2016-as-a Doctoral-Student, tonight during our bi-weekly 806 check-in, the Muppets were very much on my mind and I think might still have much to teach us about life in general and this doctoral process in particular.
As a bit of quick background, in the third movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, the Muppet troupe endeavors to “take Manhattan”, break into Broadway and become rich and famous. They quickly realize Manhattan is a tough city and are forced to split up and go their own ways.
But (as shown in a very creative 1980s montage) each individual never quite makes it on his or her own without the wider community. When all seems lost, through a series of miraculous events, Kermit finds a way to fund the show and everyone comes from far and near to help out. Together they finally create the Broadway blockbuster they had always hoped for. The show opens with the song Together Again and each character takes their turn singing about how amazing it is to in fact be “together again,” reunited once more because, “no feeling feels like the feeling of…together again.”
Tonight as each person was checking in and sharing their summer story I realized afresh how thankful I am that I get to go on this journey with a small group of fellow misfits and how amazing it feels to indeed be “together again” in 806.
I think my supervisor’s great but…there’s just something about getting back into a routine (however loose) with others that are familiar-like-family that feels refreshing because I can let the community carry part of the load that is being a doctoral student. It feels a bit like the exhale of a breadth I’ve been holding for way too long.
During our meeting, each person shared some variation of “I wanted my summer to be about ________ but then life happened and I discovered ________. But now that I’m back I am ready to get serious again about _________.”
I get it.
I wanted my summer to be about me writing the perfect proposal (complete with my supervisor weeping) and then getting unconditionally passed by my committee. But then life happened and I discovered the world of art and design education is exponentially more complex than I realized and I will not change an entire system with 200 parsimonious pages…my research will just create a space where people can connect—where fear can be diffused and this is enough. Now that I’m back I am ready to get serious again about doing the work that is mine alone.
When I was a kid, I always wondered how the Muppets felt living in a world that was largely populated with humans. They certainly seemed to know what to do to get by and yet…I wondered how it felt to live in the tension of being just a little bit different.
In many ways I think we as students on this doctoral journey are all a bit like Muppets because we all must know what to do to survive in the day-to-day world of work and family and neighborhood and yet…under it all we also have a constant awareness that there are things that are ours to do that are decidedly unlike most of the people we meet. We’re a little bit different. I know in my life that’s been an underlying tension I’ve felt since starting the program three years ago.
While I have no doubt we could all be solo superheroes, I think there may actually be something to the power of “together” and particularly…“together again.”
And indeed…no feeling feels like the feeling of…together again (in 806).
See an abbreviated clip of the Muppets here: