Alrighty then. It’s been a good long while since I wrote my last blog post – sorry about that. The last weeks have been challenging, both personally and professionally, and though I did think about writing, I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. It’s difficult to write about something when you’re still in the middle of it, when it’s not yet clear where you’re heading or what to do about the ‘mess’ you feel overwhelmed by. And yes, it’s been a bit of a mess since my return from Washington D.C., but with time comes perspective and though I feel like I am as much of a mess as ever, there is more space to talk about it, more room to reflect.
The good news is that I have all my chapters for my dissertation, and two of them have already been reworked into second versions, so I’m well on my way to put together an actual manuscript. I like this part. Though sometimes I roll my eyes at things I wrote a couple of years ago, it is also kind of fun to see how far I’ve come. The difference between my ‘thinking’ 3 years ago and my thinking today is, eh, let’s say ‘noticeable.’ So even though I’ve consistently felt like I was just kind of plodding along but not really getting any better or getting anything done, evidently I picked some stuff up along the way. I have 7 months left to complete the whole thing and submit it, and the best part is I actually do have all of those 7 months: I have no more conferences, and only one peer-reviewed article to edit. So with the time I have left over I can either write more articles, or I can invest in future plans…
…because the future is becoming a bit more real, and a lot more scary. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to do after my PhD. Fortunately, my university has offered career counselling so I have my first appointment next week to discuss what my options are. In the time I have left between now and the end of my contract I might still do some additional training to ensure a smooth transition from one job into the next. But I don’t like this uncertainty even though it’s still months away. What I especially don’t like is the fact that, in truth, I don’t even really know what I can do with a doctorate in Humanities. Sure, my resume includes a long list of other things as well (benefits of taking the non-traditional vocational education route to university) but those are not things I want to do (like retail, animal care, or teaching at secondary school level). So if anyone has any tips as for what may be a good option for me: I am all ears. I have time to get the appropriate training and I’ve been known to work hard and be quite intelligent… just saying…
And then there’s the personal stuff which is the main reason for my reluctance to write. My anxieties have been overly present and somewhat difficult to manage for me. Overall I am okay, at least, I’ve felt much much worse in the past and now more than ever I understand why I feel what I feel. Understanding why helps – it does – but it can also be frustrating. This knowledge doesn’t do anything, I still feel it, and actually, sometimes, understanding it only makes it worse. It can be depressing to know that the hurt you feel has been systematically caused by significant people throughout your life to such a degree that it affects your daily life in the present. It can be frustrating to know that the justified anger you feel because of things people have done to you is just there and that the people responsible are not bothered by it. It can be confusing to know that the sadness you feel has a right to be there, that it is normal to feel sad about everything that’s happened, but at the same time to want to be above that, to want to eradicate it because feeling that sadness feels like the person who caused it won. It’s irrational – you are not less strong for being affected by someone that you cared about deeply. If anything, it shows the strength of your character because you dared to care and you dared to open yourself up to someone else.
And yes, it is unfair and unjust and just bloody cruel for someone to take that care and vulnerability and crush it. It is deeply hurtful and angering that you have to endure that, that the words spoken by someone else carry that much power because those were all the words you feared most to hear – and that person knew it. That person knew because you were open and showed a side of yourself you hardly ever show anyone. Your trust and faith in them is why it cuts so deeply and it’s probably why you may even feel angry with yourself. After all, you put your trust and faith in them, and if only you hadn’t done that… nothing bad would’ve happened, right?
Now, I’m not one to preach the everlasting optimism that I admire in other people. My glass is inherently half-empty, and my natural inclination is to argue that it’s more likely to stay that way than it is to become full again. But even I know this: understanding why you feel what you feel is a good thing, not because of the potentially depressing, frustrating, or confusing side-effects, but because by understanding why you feel hurt, or angry, or sad, you learn so much more about yourself and what matters to you as a person. You wouldn’t be angry at someone betraying your trust if you gave it out easily and with little meaning behind it. You wouldn’t feel hurt by someone unless you were brave enough to show vulnerability which is in itself incredibly powerful – even when it doesn’t feel like it. And you wouldn’t be sad if you hadn’t genuinely cared. Of course I rather not be affected by something bad someone else did to me, and I am well aware that it will take a good long time before I can trust and care again. But that is kind of the point: the aim is to genuinely trust and genuinely care again, despite the risks and despite the bad experiences. Maybe not everyone deserves to be trusted and cared about, but can you really be yourself if you didn’t give them the best of you? They may not have valued it, and the pain it has caused sucks, but that doesn’t mean that there are no people who do value it, and who not only value it but find it important to offer you the same.
So, understanding isn’t great. It doesn’t make the feelings go away, it even makes them more tangible, more raw, and almost impossible to ignore. But it’s a great tool to get to know yourself. And this is why I didn’t write for a while. I was too caught up in the process, I couldn’t step back and understand. I’m not good at it all the time, but today the picture seems a little clearer. It’s like writing my PhD – now I can look back to the beginning and note the monumental changes I’ve made in my ability to think, analyse, structure, etc. But all throughout these past 3 1/2 years, I felt like I wasn’t going anywhere at all. Except that I did.
Great Smoky Mountains (April 2019)