Recovering Traction

I’ve been floating for the past few months—no, floating  implies a sense of weightlessness, a joyous effervescence—I’ve been foundering, using all of my energy to keep my head above the (metaphorical) water. Like Fezzik, I’ve been dog-paddling. Not particularly graceful or efficient, but I’ve survived. Which is about all that can be said for the recent past.

Everybody has times like this: something significant goes awry, and life as we know it is completely changed. Before we were ready for it to change, when we didn’t want it to change… and somehow we have to change along with it, to deal with the contingency that we failed to plan for, to morph into some better, stronger, different person; emerging, dripping, slimy and gross, from our cocoon to spread strong, beautiful wings.

This has been a wing-spreading week. A week in which I feel I can (finally!) look at my life again, without cringing or hiding. Without feeling overwhelmed and submerged by all that I need to deal with and prepare for and plan around…

A meeting with my advisor and the dean early this week sparked a conversation about what I really want to study—what my dream of an academic career would look like. I was still considering this idea long after the meeting was over: what does my dream look like?

I like framing it as a dream so much more than ‘the plan’. My ‘plan’ is ulcer-inducing, bringing with it the so-depressing reflective specter of ‘what if I can’t, what if I screw it all up? What if I don’t get into the grad school I want, can’t find a job after grad school, end up teaching sulky sixteen year-olds and getting more soured and bitter and just plain miserable each year.’

The dream , however, lets me see, conceptualize, what I want: the fulfilling job, the inspiring research, the complete life.  What I’m working for. What I’m aiming towards. Have to say, I hadn’t given it a whole lot of thought before the meeting, and I haven’t thought of much else since.

In addition to mapping out the next eighteen months of my academic life, I finally thought about what I want to do during that time frame outside of school.  What job I want (which, of course, I’ll never get without applying); what I want to write (which I’ll never do without some self-discipline); what I want to make (and maybe sell! Possible Etsy shop on the horizon– stay tuned) and all of the other things that I want to do but just haven’t.

Just the thought of having a destination (neatly outlined on index cards, taped to my bathroom mirror) has kept me fizzing along this week. Here’s to having a plan! Woohoo!

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