Everything falls away
This year had been a gradual stripping away of the things that keep my identity intact. Of the things that keep me stable. My health. Most of my social life. Hobbies and interests outside blatant escapism (PokemonGo). Cooking. Dancing. Eating regularly or with any balance. Sleep. Exercise. Yoga. Money. To a great degree, happiness.
The process of trying to birth this damned document has stripped my resilience, my energy, and what flexibility I originally possessed. The extremes of feeling are exhausting. It feels now like when I was at the bitter end of a long relationship, my health failing from the prolonged stress, and I somehow had to find the strength to pick up and leave in order to save my own life.
Funny thing – I like my dissertation. I think it’s actually pretty great.
This time I don’t want to walk away. I want to come out the other side. But every setback crushes me harder. I feel as if my personality has been reduced its best and worst aspects. The rest is dust.
I’m super sensitive. I take things personally -even more than usual. But I am tenacious as fuck. I have a core of rage that screams NO. NOT THIS TIME. I am deeply insecure, yet I know without a doubt that I have something of value to contribute as a teacher and researcher, and I just want to fucking get on with it. I cry all the time. Nothing bounces off me anymore.
FYI, this is not a great state to be in while sorting through critical feedback of my first in depth research study.
Teaching is my calling. Other than loving and being loved by my husband and daughter, nothing makes me more fulfilled than creating a learning environment and watching my students grow. I even love my failures as a teacher, because they mean I can get better.
I think differently and I usually have the courage to build new things from my thoughts. This is the point of academia, contrary to much of what is demonstrated therein.
But every time I think I’ve turned the corner, something else lays me flat. I’ve survived months of chronic asthma and steroid withdrawal, crippling anxiety and depression, a painful and terrifying breast biopsy, and the reduction of my life to this pinpoint of pain that I keep thinking is almost over, and then isn’t. If it wasn’t for the mundane reality of parenthood, I’d be in deep trouble by now. You can get Adderall on the street, but you can’t fuck with that shit when you have a kid. The worst I can do is drink too much coffee and then feel like an ass for being jittery and grouchy.
I submitted my proposal in mid January, and expected to be finished months ago. Now I’m looking down the barrel of another semester if my committee doesn’t let me through, which means I’m looking at either being ABD after 3.5 years of busting my ass, or burying my family under more debt than we can take on (and I’m already responsible for far more than half our debt because of my schooling).
This semester my students told me, in class, how I’d changed their lives and how unique I was as a teacher. It was a flash of light in this darkness. Ironically, my raw state allowed their love and appreciate to penetrate. I didn’t have any energy left to resist.
I am thankful for having a family I love enough to hang on to some of my health and sanity for.
The one thing I am grateful for out of the batshit insanity that has been this process is humility. Humility makes me a better teacher and a better person. I am less quick to judge others, or at least to believe in my judgements. I look for people’s truth instead of the reasons why they’re wrong and I’m right. I being to realize the depths of how bad things can suck, and how much more they might be sucking for someone else, and that makes me less judgy and dismissive.
I appreciate small kindnesses. Austin is full of these. In the midst of this freakshow election, I love my city more than ever.
I keep imagining what it will be like when this is over, and then something else happens that makes it seem like it will be ripped from me, along with the 100k or so I paid to get here. No bueno.
Think kind hopeful thoughts for me. I need all I can get.