Tuesday, January 6, 2015

What A Difference A Year Can Make

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

I have recently been frequently noticing how different it feels to be me this winter as compared to last winter.  I went to the YMCA this evening to swim a few laps in the pool.  Afterwards I walked the short two blocks to where I tend to catch buses to take me back home.  It’s about 0 F outside currently.  A light snow is falling.  And yet what I most noticed during the very short time I waited for my bus was the beauty of the very fine snow falling on the miniature evergreens that line the planters on Nicollet Mall.  I was captivated by the beauty of winter.  What a difference a year has made.

Time has been on my mind a lot lately.  As I progress forward I find myself wondering what is possible and by when.  I have decided to apply for a doctoral program at the University of Hawaii.  I want to give myself the gift of genuine options.  I owe it to myself to do this considering how hard I have worked in the distant and more recent past.  And as I contemplate the possibility of still more schooling the question of time is but one of many questions I am grappling with.  How soon could I realistically complete such a rigorous project as earning a PhD?  Four years appears to be the standard amount of time that students are expected to take to complete such an undertaking.  But then there are those who take longer.  And there are those who never finish.  If I began as soon as this coming autumn and completed a PhD in four years I would be essentially forty-six years old when I completed it.

My journey of healing from trauma has led me to a new relationship with time.  I feel time is my most precious resource.  I suppose I feel this way in part because time is different from money, houses and tangible goods.  Why?  Once time is gone you cannot replace or recreate it.   Money can be earned, houses can be rebuilt and lost possessions can be replaced.  But time cannot be recreated.  You can’t wrest time from the past.  Once it’s gone it is gone for good.

Once I had regained much of my health last year and began to feel the time of disruptive crisis (ergo 2013 and early 2014) decisively receding into the past I found myself able to start contemplating less pressing matters than the necessities of food and shelter.  I began to start wondering what I would want to do with the rest of my life.  What do I ultimately want to do?  With whom do I want to spend my time?  How do I want to use my time?

 A year has made such a difference in my life.  Even my grief (which I have written extensively about in past months) seems to be continuing to wither.  Aspects of my life that once really bothered me no longer inspire the same depth of angst.  For example, my apartment is still very much devoid of furniture.  And yet this doesn’t much bother me.  I have the most vital aspects of my life covered.  I am safe.  I have food.  I have clothing sufficient to protect me from the bitter cold.  I have a source of income.  I have connections.  I have the possibility of a meaningful future due to the foundation provided by my past and recent successes. 

I do still feel the sadness of the loss of any living connection to my paternal family of origin.  But even the sadness is diminishing now.  I am finally learning how to not buy into the caretaker archetype that I (needlessly) carried on my shoulders for so much of my life.  My life will go on with or without the parents who brought me into this world.  I might not feel I belong to a particular blood related family.  But I do and always have belonged to the world and in the world.

Though the power of winter darkness and cold is at its peak I know that spring will come one day.  The cycle of seasons is inevitable.  Darkness shall never rule.


One small project I gave myself during the month of January is a survey of individuals who have pursued (either completed or are currently working towards one) a PhD.  I spoke with a woman today who works for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.  I had an enjoyable conversation with her and felt inspired afterwards to continue exploring the possibility of pursuing a PhD.  As we concluded our conversation she called me ‘kiddo’.  I didn’t take any offense to that but it left me pondering where I am in my life.  The term was a bit apropos really.  I am a man who is still coming to terms with the psychic harm I experienced when I was an eight-year old boy.  Some wounds take a while to heal.

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