Winter break has been lovely – full of good food, time with my family, playing with the puppies, and watching the snow fall quietly from the sky. At the end of a frantic and stressful semester, spending time was both exactly what I wanted, and what I needed to begin to feel good again.
Grad school has, so far, been an endless run of questions for me. Some of them have actually been related to anthropology, and what I’m studying (something along the lines of – what if I think about doing this? Or working there? Or trying this new method to make it all work better?), but the majority of them have been related to my decisions. I have been struggling to find my place in Arizona. I feel like I’m doing well in school, but I’m not sure that I like it. And this is a sort of horrifying feeling to realize on so many levels. It’s initially horrifying because it’s expensive, time-consuming, and exhausting. It’s horrifying because I don’t know what else to do; I’m not necessarily feeling incredibly creative on the job-finding front (although I’ve made several attempts!), and I am one of those people who longs to feel fulfilled, to have a job or a career that I’m going to do for the rest of my life, and that I’m going to love even when it’s challenging and exhausting. I’ve watched half of my family engage in careers that are not fulfilling, especially when it’s tiring and challenging, and that is not what I want from my life. I want to be challenged, and pushed, but I have been feeling like grad school is pushing me closer and closer to an edge that really, really scares me. I’m not sure what’s beyond this edge, but I think it look something like despair. It looks like not having time to knit, or cook, or run with Sirius, or climb mountains and travel, or do things generally that I love. This terrifies me. I have so many things that I love, activities that I’m passionate about, and all I hear from my advisors is that I will probably sacrifice them, and if I don’t do it now, I will do it later. This is not news that I particularly wanted to hear.
It’s also terrifying because there’s a significant part of me that doesn’t trust these feelings of fear. There’s a large part of me sitting on the sidelines doubting these feelings, because they’re what I felt in Australia. I imagine that they’re similar to what everyone feels when they start something new, and there’s a major part of me that remembers feeling this way to various degrees in college, when I was far away from my family and lonely. To me, college was not optional. It was something I should do, and even when it felt dark and cold and lonely, it was something that I wanted. And I thought, from the moment I started college, that I also wanted grad school. And now, I’m a semester in. I’m slowly starting to consider my options, including sticking with it, and remembering that this feeling comes and goes. I’m going to make a better effort to enjoy the surrounding area, and make time to explore and enjoy. I spent so much time on grad school and worrying about grad school last semester. And it is hard, being away from my family and friends. But I also need to make a greater effort to root myself, even shallowly. I have chosen this for now, and it’s fitting that, even while I think about and work on other things, I try to find ways to make it work for myself. Some of the time, this is going to mean giving myself space to be lonely and be sad. But mostly, I think it means getting out the door and enjoying what I can (and not being snide and cynical, as my interior voice just did, about how little there is to enjoy in Phoenix. I am going to try). While this post wasn’t intended to be any sort of resolution, I suppose what I’m making is a promise to myself: that it’s okay to be worried, and it’s okay to be sad and lonely, but it’s important to try anyway. It’s worthwhile to try, even when it’s hard. And it’s also okay to look into other things besides grad school. It’s okay to move on, or to take a break. But it’s worth it to keep trying, especially when my end vision is clear, and it makes me feel like it might all be worth it.
I think a lot of what we younger people are told is that it isn’t okay to have doubts. Our parents had so many fewer options than we did, and while I feel so grateful to have had the opportunities and experiences I have, it’s all sometimes overwhelming. It’s a double-edged sword, these opportunities. You have so much you can grab and hold onto, and also so much to think about, so much that it feels like you could somehow lose. I think we’re also being told that it’s not right for us to think about these things this way, that we should be grateful; I agree, we should be. But we can also grasp the depth of the confusion it may create for us, and it’s okay to grapple with that, too. It’s okay to have doubts. I have to remind myself of this, and I’m sure many of us do. It’s okay to question your decisions, even when the world tells you to be grateful and suck it up. It’s okay if you just can’t bloom where you’re planted – you might bloom beautifully somewhere else, even if the opportunity for “growth” (in a job, in school – whatever) isn’t what you expected, or what was expected of you. Even when I can’t take my own advice, it feels important to me to offer this to others. It’s okay to forgive yourself. It’s important that you do.
(Curry and Spice will be back to semi-regular updates, whatever that means, when I return to Phoenix and my cookbooks. Stay tuned!)