I had been meaning to do this for some time, even if the “meaning to do” was hidden somewhere deep back in my mind.
The last time I did this was after my band, Patchy Sanders, performed their last show in December 2015. I wanted to reflect on my experience with this musical project and the people involved before moving back to Alaska and starting another huge chapter: graduate school.
The way I reflected was with the help of six questions, developed by philosopher Angeles Arrien and introduced to me by Laurence Cole via Bevan. Together, they are meant to assist in Honorable Closure, in moving along with life in a reasonable way instead of in circles.
Now, in August 2019, I want to revisit these questions as I transition away from graduate school in Fairbanks and into a life in Flagstaff, one that will revolve around music teaching, science communication, creating a new community, and adjusting to a hot, dry climate with a very different demographic.
- What are the blessings and gifts from this experience?
Matter-of-factly, I now have a graduate degree. I have more experience with research, analysis, and writing. I have a thesis. Perhaps I’ll be able to secure jobs with higher pay and better benefits. I was given a regular stipend to pay off my band debt, buy a car, adopt and support a dog, and travel a bit.
Emotionally/immaterially, I met Jason. We put a lot of intention and work into achieving a level of love and maturity and trust into our relationship. I also learned to accept my impostor syndrome. I can manage criticism with more grace. I met so many wonderful friends. I immersed myself into Alaskan landscapes as an adult.
Additionally, I studied the incredible arctic ground squirrel! I held them while hibernating and took care of them in the field and in the lab. I shipped little tubes of their DNA to Vienna and then flew there myself to meet them.
- What were the challenges and what was painful?
Long list…the impostor syndrome over and over and over. Starting a relationship with Jason. Waking up at 3 am every night for weeks, struck by anxiety and worry. Feelings of incompetency. Seeing my mistakes displayed on the lab screen over and over. My stress and anxiety come up so strongly. Tears all the time. Frequent emotional overwhelm. Deciding, amidst all the challenge of grad school, to see a therapist and start opening up. It’s painful, even now, sitting and typing out what was challenging. But, wow, what a journey.
- Where do I need to forgive myself?
The times I didn’t give it my all, whether in the field, in the lab, or writing. I was managing the best I could.
- Where do I need to forgive the other?
All the times members of my committee caused me to feel small.
- How have I been changed? How am I different now?
I am so much happier now. Deeply. When I look within, I see clarity and peace. I stand up for myself, even if I cry while I do so. I believe in myself more. I respect myself more. I have made great progress in healing from my last significant relationship. I am gentler with myself. I am very careful not to let any self-criticism in, while recognizing that healthy self-critique is useful. I feel so satisfied that I stuck with my program and my thesis to produce something that I can now publish and let the world know about. I believe in myself more, I believe in myself more, I believe in myself more.
I also believe in the power of Western, pharmaceutical medication. A pill can change your life.
- Because of this experience, what are the new commitments I am making to my life?
To be very careful who I let into my life. To assert who I am and set boundaries in new relationships. To not be hard on myself, ever. To let it all in without letting “it” knock me over. To deeply believe that I can excel at whatever I choose. To strive for a balance between health and pleasure. To cultivate meaningful relationships where vulnerability and honesty are accepted. To honor my own process.