First a confession… I've been avoiding this blog for the past few weeks. I've been going through so many things and thinking so many things that it was swirling around in my head like a tornado and I couldn't make enough sense of it to know what to say let alone write it down. So, avoidance theory. It works every time.
But the past 48 hours have been pretty important. At least I think so in this moment. My moods are like the weather… wait five minutes and they'll be different.
Wow, where to start? TV class…
Monday night is my tv class. I think I'm going to really like it. I loved it after the first night, actually felt euphoric afterwards, But then I got all jumbled and twisted and turned and now I'm back to thinking I will like it. This week the whole class had to write short reaction papers for two of the weekly readings and then post them on the class Angel site (like BlackBoard for you JMU'ers).
I was all anxious about it – of course – because it was my first assignment as a PhD student and I really had no clue what to expect. But I worked on them and posted them like a good little student. Then I went back and read other people's and I started to feel worse and worse.
Monday's class was our first "real" class because of Labor Day. I was ok for the first 15 minutes – answering questions, contributing, engaged. Then I started to feel worse and worse. And I shut down.
Then I went home and cried.
And questioned myself, my intelligence, my abilities, and every single decision I made on the way to landing in this moment in time, in grad school, feeling like a complete idiot.
Monday I felt like the dumbest kid in class.
Was I really? Who knows. But that doesn't really matter. What matters is that I suddenly wondered if I could even make it through the first semester let alone the whole program. I have never felt that way. Ever. I'm not dumb. I know I'm not the brightest bulb on the tree, but I'm also not the dimmest. I did really well in my master's program. They thought I was a good student. See? Proof!
But Monday night was a pretty bad night. So, as I am inclined to do, I retreated inside and swirled around in my head. Questioning. Wondering. Thinking. Processing. Analyzing. Round and round and round and round. And round and round and round and round. It's my way.
Things were still pretty bad when I woke up Tuesday. But by noon they were looking up because I had two lightning bolt insights that calmed the chaos and helped me begin to breathe again:
1) Most of the other people in my class are 1-3 years into their Master's or PhD programs which means they are 1-3 years ahead of me in what they have been exposed to and studied. How can I be expected to know after two weeks what people know after two years? Maybe some people can and do, but not me. This is a completely new discipline for me and I do not have any of the foundational knowledge or theories to draw from. I'm getting it all for the first time and am just trying to see the forest for the trees. No one has those expectations of me except me, I'm sure. But my expectations sometimes have a life of their own. So… perspective… it's a good thing. It takes off some of the (self-imposed) pressure.
2) Then I suddenly remembered the first two weeks of my master's program and realized I felt EXACTLY this same way. Totally lost. Totally stupid. Unprepared. Not smart enough. Freaked out of my mind and scared to death. Like everyone else was so much more sophisticated and smart and wise and scholarly. Again, perspective… it's a good thing. I've been here before and I not only survived, but thrived.
So, I began to breathe. And relax.
And took down my walls, made myself vulnerable, and told a few people what I was going through.
And I started to feel.
That's a big one for me. Feeling.
I trap myself nicely up in my head and block out the world and keep everyone away.
I'm really really good at it.
So when I get to a point when I am feeling, which doesn't happen much these days, I know I'm in a good, if scary, spot.
In fact, in a lot of ways, this whole journey that I'm on right now is all about that. I had a great life before. Anyone looking at me would have seen a happy, successful person living a pretty darn charmed life. But I was walled off in a lot of ways, in a deep deep trench, and knew I needed to make huge changes in order to get life back on track. Or to re-create it the way I wanted it to be. So, here I am.
That tornado that hit me on Monday has – oh please please please – started the process of jumping me out of the old patterns from my old life. I have started to feel. I have opened up and shown people my real, true, honest, and vulnerable parts. The parts I usually try to keep secret.
Today, Wednesday at 1:30pm, I am hopeful. Oh so hopeful that this really is a first step towards living a life of joy and passion and love and energy and excitement and happiness again. I don't want to be ok anymore. I want to LIVE my life like I used to. I want to smile all day every day. I want to have friends that burrow themselves so deep in my heart I can't even tell where the entry point was. I want to find romance and a partner to walk through life with. I want to take everything this PhD program can throw at me and savor every moment and ask for more.
Today, Wednesday at 1:30, that's what I want. It's scary to admit and I am actively resisting the temptation to delete it. If I leave it and I hit the post button, it's going live. Even if no one reads this, it's still out there in the public world and not locked away like a secret in my heart and in my head. Am I ready?
Robert Downey Jr. visited me in a dream last night. Apparently we dated back in college. How about that? Who knew? But I felt something in that dream. Felt something strong and powerful and intoxicating. And that gives me hope.