[originally posted 07/31/2011 to now-defunct iWeb blog]
Recap: “Beyond all my book learnin’ and such, the take-away from this meta-analysis of grad school is one of a refiner’s fire. Grad school sucked everything out of my life except for grad school. I was able to boil down over the past two years the bits I’d really like to take back. [...] What grad school did was refine my list of what really really matters. When I finally got a break, what did I want to do? When I decided to blow off my research on Saturday afternoon, who did I want to spend time with? When I’m done and it’s all behind me now, what made it to the top of the list of things that matter most to me?”
Refining consists of purifying an impure material, in most cases metal. The final material is usually identical chemically to the original one...only it is purer.
Thanks, Wikipedia. Again, impressive research skills brought to you by grad school. My thesis has nothing on this blog post. I can google an answer before you even realize what you’re asking. I’ll relish that fact as I write student loan checks for the next 35 years, I’m sure of it.
Back to the refining idea: In a way, it’s an exciting feeling. It’s almost like I had a huge moving sale and thousands of people drove away with all my clutter. As I walk back into an empty house and look around, I realize that I have ultimate freedom. I have ultimate freedom as to what I put, and don’t put, back into the space. So what makes it in?
- My core friends. A large extended social network is a given (and I look forward to reconnecting with all sorts of people I’ve lost touch with), but I’ve come to deeply love core people that I realize I can’t live without. I plan to love them like crazy from here on out.
- Spiritual space and room to breathe. This aspect of my life has ebbed and flowed freely over the years, but I’m at my best when I cultivate a connection to something beyond myself. Most would assume that translates into a religious context, but no, it’s so much more than that. Introspection, nature, social justice work, regular yoga practice, creative outlets, like-minded radicals, volunteering...it’s all spiritual to me because it all feeds my spirit.
- Weekend brunch. No one should have to explain to you, gentle reader, the glory that is al fresco breakfast food.
- Emotional availability. I haven’t been available at all. I know that. My friends and family know that. I like to be available. I thrive when I am. I’m working my way back into that.
- The. Gym. I sincerely miss the feeling of enjoying getting dressed in the morning...or getting undressed at night, for that matter. *clears throat* Enough said.
- Reading. Not text books, not academic journals, not the literature wonk of the wonk field blah. I mean reading stuff I want to read for no reason other than I want to read it. It may be a magazine. It may be friends blogs in google reader. It may be hefty nonfiction. It may be a trashy novel or Rainn Wilson’s tweets. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that it was not assigned to me and a 20-page paper is not pending.
- Creativity. I’ve felt like a creative black hole for a long time and I’m so over it. Blogging. Photography. Traveling with my big camera/lenses. Designing my new condo. Painting. Movies. Community festivals. Creative writing (you wanna talk about something that gets beat out of you in grad school). Live music and my dirty feet dancing in the ampitheatre grass. All of it. I know what that creative spark feels like, and it’s been fleeting at best for years now.
- Vacations. Travel that is unrelated to work. I shouldn’t have to explain this.
That’s enough. Of course this list is not comprehensive. It’s not meant to be. It is meant to articulate a starting point. As I piece my once-awesome life back together, and heal the violent experience of grad school, this list holds my touchstones.