Tag Archives: graduation

I Return As Dr. Éilis!

On Friday, I defended my dissertation, passed without the need for any revisions, and absolutely stunned out my committee! Each of them made a point to tell me how much they loved my presentation, and how well I did in answering their questions. I rocked it, above and beyond what I ever imagined. As Martha Beck says, Woohoo!!!

It’s been a long, long road, everyone. Weeks ago, I wondered whether, after I gained my freedom–err, I mean graduated– I’d be totally ecstatic and bouncing off walls, full of so much joy I wouldn’t know what to do with myself: maybe I’d have so much energy that I’d run until I’d get exhausted: which would only take a minute. I’m serious. Writing a dissertation takes up a lot of hours, and involves the “arduous” task of sitting still…with the exception of your hands of course, which are constantly typing. Moving becomes an unfamiliar pastime.

As it happens, I am immeasurably happy, and jubilant, and elated: and bone tired. Contentedly tired, but still very weary. They don’t tell you this when you get the acceptance letter, but graduate school is a long drawn out procedure with a recovery period. I recommend warning any graduate-school-enthusiast children you may have about this phenomenon, (but to be fair, no amount of warning ever dissuaded me from attending.)

For me, graduate school lasted ten enduring years. Years spent not knowing who I was, years where I faced a lot of discrimination, pain, ostracism and social invisibility, years in which I slowly but steadily moved through and eventually transformed my anger, grief, and feelings of worthlessness. Somewhere inside me was the girl who I’d forgotten in the fog, lost under harsh layers of living, but who was still breathing, silently dreaming.

I know she was there, because I have found her. I sang to her bones to rise, to walk into her own belonging. I traveled the road of shadows for her, called her name, gathered the shattered mirror pieces and pieced them whole once I heard and knew and felt throughout all I ever was that I was not broken. I learned to love those jagged pieces, a patchwork puzzle of the past. And despite all I had been through in the place to which I returned, last week when I returned, I remained wholeheartedly myself. I could have never achieved this on my own, of course, but I did have to decide to keep going, each step of the way. That is to me a testament to how far I have come.

Always the question arises, after arriving, no longer questing, for a threshold: as I look toward my whole life ahead of me, what amidst all that should be left behind is worth carrying forward? re-membering is important, relearning resilience, rebuilding a self by the soft light of a core spark that never dies, retrieving compassion from where it had retreated, backed into a corner of regret and shame and silence about much that had never been true. Freedom, walking out of the Anonymous Desert for the last time, and shutting a door of an era behind me was a right of passage in itself. But I know well that I could have never lept the crossing had I never learned to tear down walls, break through bars, and hold my own rather than hold on for dear life. (I have often done both kinds of holding, sometimes simultaneously.)

A week before my defense, I sat down and did some re-membering. I wrote from myself to myself, which I had never done before. I will share a bit of the growing with you, as I think I’ve learned things which we are all in the process of re-membering, and because I finally found the words for it.

***

Power is found within, springs forth from love and compassion for you, to hold your own sacred space within you, and claim your birthright of worth and belonging. You can stay centered in your own truth, your own power. You are the author of your life and the divine guardian of yourself.

Stop holding your breath against change. Be discerning and open. Let go. Let go of expectations. you belong to yourself and always have. This past does not define you. It will not ruin you. You will return. Keep your energy centered, your mind focused. Have great love and compassion for you. Know you are stronger than you know or believe. The grey will fall at your light. Be present, be alive and do not try to hide your eyes. Please return without any sense of small. Be the unbridled joyfulness of you. Your power, your truth, your strength, your trust, is all of and for yourself. I love you. You are already wild.

***

The journey that has gotten me here far surpasses the feat of freeing myself from a situation I never should have stayed in. If that lived experience was the only way to get me to where I am now, I am grateful for every moment of it, and that’s the truth. And truthfully, I am also overjoyed to finally be moving on, to embrace what is next in this wonderfully wild world. Let’s do this thing!

The Great Day Will Soon Arrive!

It’s happening, everyone! Tomorrow I will be on a plane to Anonymous Desert and will be defending my dissertation this Friday. Basically I will be spending 2.5 hours in a room with four committee members who will ask me all sorts of questions, and then decide, based on my responses as well as the over 200 page document I’ve handed in, whether I qualify to graduate with a PH.D. It’s been an incredible amount of work and I am still preparing! This is why I haven’t written much new content on the blog. To say it’s been all-consuming for a while now is an understatement. 🙂

My goal is to be Dr. Éilis on my return.
Meanwhile, I leave you with the poem that first began this blog back on December 3, 2013.

Being Complete

There is not one word to name
Shallow tidepools
Or rocky crags,
Wind blustering by

Or blue, deep flowing,
Growing blue
A whirrlpool of color
In the vastness of this sky

There my self of many faces passes by
The red beneath blood deep within
And blue around me reaches
Out across the thresholds of my skin

There but for her shaping hands go I
Molding new ground for my wearry feet
There but for their ancient eyes
And strong, tall forms,

Long streaming hair,
Glinting shields
And for me finding all of me,
I might never have been whole

I duck inside
The shelter of my own light house
As vast as sunrise,
As wide as mountains

As old as time
Home at last
I sweep the floor
I’ve left my golden shiny things outside

The only thing that matters now:
Unconditioned joy of living
Poured out from their hands
I once asked why,

Fragmented my soul
Against stone to understand
But now newly formed and unknowing
I am content to stand,

Belonging to myself
Beside them hand and hand.
Where haunting melodies of Lír’s children linger in the silence of the night
Where the Fianna’s hunting horn lies buried,

Where I can still follow the footsteps
That lead inside earthy knolls
Where landscapes reawaken
The absences of dreams leave holes

Along the path less taken
I discovered who I was
Fragile and bony, easily torn
Eternal and holy a spirit now born

When the rains came and washed fear away
Into the seven seas
I opened my eyes from a long sleep
Of seven years

And with a gratitude more full
Than the universe has stars
I jumped off securities jagged ledge
And soared into the trees.

Now I do not try
To name what refuses to be a certainty
Better it remain wild and unruly,
In the history of landscape

Better to welcome those you dance with wordlessly
So you do not waltz
Into the four sided space
Of a definition

With no way to return
As inexplicably
As you have come
Slide me into the glaring light

Of your microscopic gaze
Try to holler at the silence
Murmuring along
Edges of my life

I will sift like mist between
Your fingers and nothing will linger
But the emptiness you made of me
For I am, at heart, a mystery

With no word to capture the unfathomable totality
Who I am
When all is said and done, even then,
I will be.