I was thinking last night about what grad school has been to me, about all the problems I am having making myself just write the freaking dissertation already, and about how I've changed in grad school. One thing I realized recently is that the me I am now, after 5 years of grad school, is the me I am. This came to me a while ago when I was having some kind of crisis over the fact that I would never finish and suffering some serious impostor syndrome. I said to R, "I hate that grad school makes me act so emotional. This isn't me." But then I realized that wait, if I have been acting a certain way for 5 years, that is probably me. It is just a different me than I was 5 years ago.
Months ago Dr. Crazy wrote a really good post about graduate school being a process of breaking a person down and creating them anew as an academic/scholar/professor/whatever. I think this is really hitting the nail on the head, and exactly what I have gone through. Every step of grad school is, in a way, something I am not ready for and after I go through it I can't believe it is over. But then I look back and it is so easy. Like the morning of my MA defense I was soooo nervous, I felt like I was going to throw up. I seriously thought I had food poisoning because never before in my entire life have I ever been that nervous. But as soon as I was done, it was no big deal. And now, facing down my dissertation looming over me and seeming like it will never be done, I would love to just have a master's thesis to write again. I feel like I could do a really good job with it. But it does seem that with every step I need to fall apart, in order to put myself back together. It is a little like how I write, really. I write a ton of crap, then delete it all and start over and end up with much better stuff than I had before.
I'm hoping that now that I've seen this system, I can be a little gentler with myself as I go through it. I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert takes a year and travels, exploring pleasure in Italy, devotion in India and then trying to find balance between them in Indonesia. I'll write more about the book later but it has really been speaking to me. At the part I am at now, in her yoga practice, she is working on seeing the divine within herself and opening herself to what she calls God's love. I am not totally comfortable with those terms, but I would like to work on being more gentle with myself. I tend to get on tracks of how I am the laziest person ever and don't deserve a PhD, and will never succeed out of grad school, when, to paraphrase Gilbert, I need to learn I am just a human, and an average one at that.