Somehow I’ve finished my first year of grad school–just six more to go! Clearly I did not do any better keeping up my blog, but the demands of grad school on my time and energy didn’t leave me with much to devote to blogging. Now that I am somewhat recovered and doing better with summer vacation, I feel the need to continue this public documentation of my existence (or whatever this is).
This year lowkey kicked my ass, but I kind of liked it. Despite my best efforts, I feel that not wanting to return to NAU colored much of my year. It was hard to reconcile where I wanted to be after leaving Japan with where I ended up. I was unsure of myself, my goals, and my abilities. I spent a lot of this year feeling unmoored and meandering. That being said, I felt increasingly sure that studying literature was exactly what I wanted to be doing.
My confidence in my career choice has only solidified, but this year challenged my understanding of the other aspects that build a life. Moving to a new place, starting over (again), is exhausting. I felt more isolated in this one year in Flagstaff than I ever did in Japan. I worked at Jimmy Johns, I taught, I went to class and wrote papers, and yet I felt completely disconnected from the actual living going on around me. It’s hard being an adult-type creature and facing life alone. This year saw me spiraling to some of the lowest lows of my life with no where to turn. I had to question everything I thought I was and find new answers. I don’t think I’m better for it. I don’t think I’m stronger for it, either. I just think I’m changed. I don’t remember who I was when I arrived back in the U.S. last summer.
But I learned a lot. I learned about myself: about what I want and what I value, what I hope for and what I’m willing to do to achieve my goals. I learned so much about literature–more than I could have imagined I’d learn in a year. I learned that I’m kind of, maybe, sort of, pretty good at studying literature. At the start of the year I had absolutely no idea what was going on in my classes. I put my nose down, asked questions when I had them, researched independently, and eventually felt confident in my new role as a literature student. I had a paper accepted for publication and another accepted at a conference. I wrote paper after paper and read nearly everything assigned. I found new interests, reaffirmed old ones, and started to understand what it means when people say I’m “smart” (although I’m still not wholly certain what that word means to people).
Finding my niche has meant learning to see the ways in which I might be different from the other people in my life. I have a new understanding of who I am and what makes me different. It’s hard. It’s lonely. And yet still, I feel better being truthful to myself than living an easy life for someone else. I find myself growing more and more unapologetic in my values, beliefs, and identity. This is both challenging and liberating.
I lost a lot of weight and gained it back again. Twice. I found new ways of honoring my mind and my body. I found new ways of understanding and controlling the passage of time in my life. I found joy in taking control of the parts of my existence I have power over.
I felt loss.
As I move forward into my adult life, I feel keenly the ways in which decisions can provide limitations and close doors. By committing to certain things I am limiting my opportunities, while, I can only hope, creating new ones. I feel parts of myself dying. Some parts I will miss, others I will not. I feel the loss of the person I was.
The first month of summer was hell. By the time I reached the end of the semester there was none of me left, and I crashed. I didn’t see value in the life I was living. I’m not sure I ever will. Though I can’t see where exactly I’m headed, I do take some solace in being able to see how I got here.
It’s hard to believe a year has nearly passed since I’ve moved back to Flagstaff, and yet so much has happened in the past 10.5 months that it’s equally hard to believe that just a year ago I was leaving Japan and trying to fit back into life in the States.
There have been no simple years in my life. Each year I grow, change, and am challenged significantly. I can’t begin to imagine what is to come, but I suppose I’ll find out.