I think a lot, maybe a little too much. I think about readings, about things I hear on tv or in documentaries, I think about conversations I have with others, about the way I feel in relation to others, and lately about how isolating graduate school can be. When I am not thinking about any of the above, I think about how to share learnings and gain learnings from others, about what type of educator I want to be, how I want to connect with children and youth, about international work and volun-tourism, about the wars happening in the world, and about crafts I can do to potentially quiet my mind. I think a lot and currently I am thinking about how thinking is becoming a little overwhelming.
I am fortunate to have an amazing supervisor who is always happy to hear me out and to direct my thinking in different ways. If it was not for my supervisor my current thoughts would not be so. As I sit here and wonder how many people are in holiday mode and how many others are in work mode, I think about how isolating graduate studies can be; I am in work mode. To add a layer of isolation, try deconstructing your own thoughts, experiences, and reflections for an academic research project. As I mentioned this to my supervisor, his wife, and the couple who we shared dinner with, also both scholars, they all chuckled and said “welcome to academia!”
According to my supervisor, the rates of PhD student divorces (I am not married, just in case you are wondering) is extremely high and friendships fading is even higher as PhD students get absorbed and focused on their studies, especially when it is a study close to their heart. The challenge is that students get fixated on their progress and other things including friends and partners get left to the side. It is scary to think about but easy to become witness too. In so many ways it would be easy to push a hold button on life activities to remain solely focused on my academic pursuits. After all it brings me nearly as much joy as other activities in my life.
It is also the time of year, creeping up to the new year, where I start to become reflective of the year past and those that have contributed to my year. This year, for me, has been one to be thankful for. I have met some of the most wonderful people in my life to date, I have reconnected with friends that I can not imagine life without, and I have become significantly more aware of what I want in my own life. While 2016 has been a year of challenges, huge hurdles, and lots of inner searching, it has been one to treasure.
So then, I think, what about balancing my social life with my academic life? How do I do this? Do I want to do this? And who are the people that make the cut? Who are those I place on “pause” in anticipation that one day I will not be so focused on my academic pursuits that I can press “play” again? Is that even fair to anyone? What about that thing that has been eating away at me – the responses my body has to situations and environments that I thought I could control but now think I do a poor job at controlling. Actually, I think I can do a pretty good job at controlling for an extremely limited time and then I explode with thoughts, feelings, and no solutions. I think the whole process is a challenge.
I sit here thinking, thinking about isolation, thinking about connections, thinking about the energy we all share, thinking about what makes something safe and something else unsafe, thinking about why such strong language pops up in moments when I would have not thought about such language, thinking about what stops thinking, and thinking about how others cope in such situations. I am definitely not alone in my thinking. Perhaps I am isolated because I think too much, perhaps I seek isolation because I can then think uninterrupted. I think about my muscles and if they are thinking and if that is why my fingers tingle when I feel unsafe or my legs bounce when I am in discomfort, why I grin when I feel awkward, or why I stay super calm and quiet when I am happy. And more so over the past few days I have been thinking about what makes me feel unsafe, especially in situations that others feel so safe in. Additionally, why have I learnt to find comfort in the discomfort rather than accepting the discomfort and avoiding such situations? I think about why I think so much and the effect it has on my sleep, on my eating habits, on the need I have to be physically active, and on my friendships. I think about migration, nomadic lives, about the hunter and gatherer communities, about movement, and about each of these factors playing a role in my greater story. Wait, what is my story?
All these thoughts have taken approximately seven minutes to run through my mind and be written out. Seven minutes of my life and I have gone from concerns and thoughts about graduate student isolation to what my story is. Initially I sat down to write about thinking and graduate studies and how it may potentially impact my relations in the coming months as I attempt to write my dissertation. Almost an apology to those I place on “hold” during the process. But now I think, well I cannot place you on hold, you are your own self. You have the right to not be on “hold” and to hit “delete” on me. So then, what does the grieving process look like for you and I? It’s another thought, perhaps for another moment. Now, I think, well this is the worst apology ever. I hope I can do better, that this year I learn to share my feelings with those closest to me and to accept the vulnerability risk that you will share my feelings with others, likely because you are now thinking and need to think with another to process and proceed to hit “delete”. If you decide to hit “delete” before I get to the “hold” button, please do just let me know. I will then know I have to grieve too and I promise you have meant something to me and that grieving is something I will spare my thinking time to do. You are worth those thoughts. (Was that a better apology?).
Are you thinking about how my thinking is a little bonkers by now? Even how it got a little dark at the end? I think you might be thinking this way so let me end the thinking about thinking while thinking here.