March 18, 2018
Convocation Countdown: 46 days
Presentation Update: Slides + Narration V3 complete and now in full rehearsal
Yesterday I told another friend the news that my dissertation defense will occur sometime during the first week of April. My friend was ecstatic. I laughed because it’s still absurd to think that it is so close…that I am almost there. Then my friend asked how I was holding up as legit the first week of April is so close.
I said I am pretty sure I have major issues because in my head I know that I am ready and that I have a solid dissertation and yet I am so skittish that something catastrophic will happen and I won’t make the April 30 convocation deadline. I said so much has happened the last couple weeks and I can’t quite let go of the “what-ifs” and allow myself to be present fully right here and right now. I am incredibly terrified because so much is outside of my control.
My friend responded quickly that my feelings are understandable and should be acknowledged. But what is also completely true is that I have lots of great people around me holding and supporting me so no matter what happens…I will be okay.
Though I was glad for the empathy, I was a little taken aback because I didn’t hear any ego bolstering motivational phrases like, “You’re strong!! You’re a fighter and you’re going to do it!! You’ve got this!” Indeed, there was a distinct lack of attention paid to anything exclusively Lisa-centric and instead a very purposeful emphasis on reminding me I am not alone…I am being held and supported by a positive network and in this fact, I will okay.
My default definition of strength is being something that makes me impervious…something that allows me to dominate the less desirable emotional bits of being human. I tend to measure strength by my own ability to maintain my independence, to accomplish my own goals. Being okay means having personal fortitude to withstand whatever comes at me. In my own definition of strength, words like “held and supported” are code for “weakness.”
My default definition of strength is great if I am living in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society or maybe stranded on a desert island. To give you some insight into my actual life…last week I purchased a pair of premium denim jeans that came heavily distressed in an artistic manner. This afternoon I wore them while drinking mimosas and eating gluten free, organic pastries made by flannel clad hipsters. It is safe to say I am far removed from either a dystopian or desert island life.
I’m coming to think my default definition of strength may need some re-working.
Looking back it is easy to see that from the beginning the meta narrative of this doctoral journey has been one of the power of community…the wonder of being held and supported and of realizing you are not alone. This showed up first with the cohort and the crazy academic boot camp that was program orientation. It continued through coursework…the routine of weekly meetings and shared struggles to figure out just who we were becoming in the liminal space of doctoral studies. When coursework was complete, a previously peripheral supervisor joined the mix as cheerleader, advocate, and voice of reason. Along with this formalized academic squad existed all the friends and family who care enough to listen and ask questions–who care enough about you to get excited about your tiny research area and learn words with way too many syllables because they make you so happy.
Just over a month ago I was in Florida, living steps from the ocean yet feeling deeply impatient waiting on structural processes to work themselves out. I told the ocean life was unfair because I had an amazing plan but no one was acting on my time table. I told the ocean I was basically over almost all humans. The ocean reminded me that strength comes in dependence…in mutual support and honor. The ocean advised me that maybe a deep breadth as opposed to a clenched fist was a better option. It is easy to listen and consent to this wisdom when you’re standing at the edge of a continent and feeling exceptionally small. I’ll confess the last couple weeks, I may have “conveniently forgotten” this wisdom.
Looking back it is easy to see that from the beginning the meta narrative of this doctoral journey has been one of the power of community…the power of finding my own strength through being held and supported by a larger positive network. I could not have done this journey alone and that is 100% as it should be.
It continues to surprise me that I am such a slow learner.
Two weeks from today I will be on the brink of all. the. things. Three weeks from today all the things will (hopefully) be over. Once again I have a choice ahead of me: will I give myself to trying to be strong and trying to personally manage all the what-ifs of a future that legit has no guarantees? Will I give myself to this moment trusting that I will be held and supported no matter what arrives? The answer is most likely yes to both options but…may it be slightly more the latter and slightly less the former. May I trust that my connection to this larger community rather than my own independent stamina ultimately be what will allow me to be okay.