The Lessons I Learned: A Graduation Post

This weekend is my graduation weekend. As I look back over the last several years in grad school, I can’t help but be amazed at how much this experience has transformed me. As I celebrate how far I’ve come, I have been thinking about some of the lessons that I’ve learned along the way.

  1. Excellence is not about perfection; rather, it is about wholeheartedness, open-mindedness, creativity, and passion. I couldn’t hold onto my perfectionism and survive the demanding pace of graduate school, but I could throw myself exuberantly into everything I did and work passionately on it while I had the time, letting go when it was “done enough.” The last three years taught me how to dive in deep without drowning in the details, how to create quality work by accepting my own limitations.
  2. Self-care is vital. It’s the fuel to the flame of life, and I have a responsibility to honor my own needs, physically and emotionally. But it’s not a solo effort. It’s a collective one. I need to surround myself with people who also value and honor my wellness and the things required for me to maintain it. A focus on radical self-care is not something I can afford to lose, nor is it something I can carry out on my own.
  3. Success is just as scary, if not more so, than failure sometimes. It take courage to step boldly into possibility, and when I don’t fall flat on my face right off the bat, it takes even more courage to keep stepping into possibility. Sometimes I get frustrated with myself over how scared I can be, but what I fail to realize in those moments is that I keep moving forward despite my fear. I’m learning to respect the courage I find to pursue my dreams.
  4. I am more capable than I think I am. It’s so easy for me to doubt my own abilities—to listen to the doubt of others as well as my own insecurities. I have had to learn how to respect my own limitations, as I mentioned above, but I have also had to learn that I have more to offer than I have previously learned to think I do.
  5. Lastly, grad school has been transformative in helping me learn what it feels like to be part of a healthy organization. All of the skills and knowledge I gained pale in comparison to the experience of building stable attachments with mentors, teachers, and peers within an institution that values autonomy, critical thinking, individuality, and wellness.
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Quote from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carol

Birthing my Future: Lessons on Transition with Artemis

Since I wrote this post on Artemis, I have felt myself preparing for transition. Truth be told, I’d been feeling the stirrings for far longer than that…almost exactly nine months. For much of that time, the stirrings were more intellectual, dreaming of what might happen, thinking about taking steps, considering what the changes in my life might look like.

Towards the holidays, I started to really feel the need to change my life up. I began earnestly looking at where my path might lead. I prepared for grad school, took the GRE, started looking at new jobs in mental health, even pushed for vacations to get a new perspective on my routines.

But it wasn’t the right time for me to begin my transition.

I’ve had a particularly hard time with the winter this year, and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I myself felt so frozen, not in a time of rest and dormancy, rather as if my life force were being held captive by the season. I don’t like being held back after I’ve made a decision to move forward. When my initial attempts to get into grad school by last fall fell through, I settled into a restless period of waiting. I felt as if I were crouched to leap at any opportunity, yet not quite desperate enough to just make change for change’s sake. Waiting for the right change to present itself was torturous.

I restlessly surrounded myself with plants, trying to bring a sense of growth into my life, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t will the winter outside my windows to go away.

Yoga with Artemis helped. She gave me courage to keep preparing myself for change when fear tried to convince me to let well enough alone. She gave me the motivation to plunge into the discomfort of uncertainty with regard to the next year. She gave me hope that with that uncertainty might come possibility.

And finally, I’ve come to it. The transition has started. The cards have fallen into place (seriously, you should have seen my tarot reading for this month!).

Now Artemis is standing with me in my birth pangs. In a few weeks, I’ll be starting a new job/career and mailing off my application to grad school. I’m exhilarated and excited, of course. But there’s also pain.

With my new beginning also comes a type of ending. Not a permanent, never-going-to-see-you-again ending, but an ending to the way my relationships and life have worked up until now. I love the people that I’ve worked with for the past several years. They’ve been like family to me. I’ve stayed where I am as much because of them as because of my own needs for incubation. To leave is heartbreaking.

For that Artemis is there with her fierce independence, not scorning my connection, but reminding me that connection, like life, is meant to be fluid. She reminds me that it’s loving to say goodbye when it’s time to go. Life isn’t about staying the same; life is about changing. When I resist change because of connection, I dishonor both life and connection.

I know I’m on the right path for myself. I’m so excited about the possibilities. The uncertainty of the next few months feels gloriously wild…just like the spring that is beginning to peak out from hibernation. But with each new opportunity, I’m reminded that there are also endings. I honor those endings today and look forward to the transitioning of relationships along with the transitioning of employment.