First things first: I had my first sort of preliminary dissertation presentation today in Research Methods. It went really well, I thought. The class was very supportive and interested (in my pretty obscure topic), I got some useful feedback, and I just generally felt much more prepared than I had going in. So either I am, or I’m kidding myself, but I can live with that.So that’s Nightmares in Dissertation Writing: Episode I over and done with. Obviously, there’s still loads that’s nightmarish, but I’m over the first hurdle and it is, at least for now, a good feeling. I’m going to withhold details on my topic until they become a bit more solidified and I’m able to talk about it more succinctly and plainly. For everybody’s reference, I will be submitting a 3,000 word full proposal on 18 March, after which I will officially be assigned a supervisor. Then I read and write crazily all summer. Woo.
Right, other things. In choir this term, you may recall, we’re singing Mendelssohn’s magnificent Elijah, including the rousing movement Help Us, Baal! Now I’ve sung a variety of religious music in my time, but I’ll admit that this is my first hymn to Baal. My favorite line is, “Baal, let thy flames fall and extirpate the foe!” What an excellent use of the word extirpate. I feel like pretty much every use is a good use for a word of that caliber.
I’ve also never done a Throwback Thursday before, but my mother sent me this precious picture of the cats from 2008. It once again highlights everything about who they are as people. I mean cats.
Also, there’s this contemporary portrait of my gorgeous. You can hardly tell she’s cross-eyed.
The other one wouldn’t sit still for his portrait. No one was surprised.
Cue thoughtful musings for the week. Things since coming to Ireland have been tricky as I come more and more to understand where I see myself in five or ten years. In many ways, I feel great because I do actually have a vision of what I want (at least sort of) and that’s an empowering thing. It’s also been very scary, though, because it’s not what I would have said even six months ago. Those of you who have known me for a long time know that I’ve wanted desperately to live in Croatia. Not for any particular reason, but just because I thought that was where my soul belonged. These past few months have given me a different view on my love of the Balkans. Now, I see it more as an interest, a fascination; the history, culture, language, landscape are entrancing (ensorcelling, even). But as I’ve developed an idea of the sort of work I want to do, it becomes increasingly clear that the Balkans may not be the place for me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love them and am up for living in Croatia–but holding more to my fantasy of working in a bookstore, keeping bees, having an orchard, and living in a seaside cottage than doing the work that stems from my education.
It’s sort of a gross feeling, knowing that my dreams are slipping through my fingers. And that I’m not really doing anything to stop their departure. I’ve clung for so long to the version of myself that wanted to live in Croatia that it’s difficult to face the version of myself that doesn’t really. I feel like I’m betraying my past self and, probably, ruining my future self by succumbing to the normalizing influence of the world. I don’t want to be normal, I want to have dreams. But maybe dreams are meant to be more fluid, like literal dreams, than we often allow. It’s not abandoning particular dreams that breaks the heart, but abandoning dreaming altogether. And so.
One way or another, I will continue on. My vision of myself will have to change and, I suspect, this will not be the last time. In fact, I suspect that one never gets it ‘right’–rather, that we keep changing right up until the last. More or less visibly, more or less radically, but changing. It’s like the old adage, “Do not be afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
And another thing. Some people might be like, “Oh, but I don’t want him to squander his potential.” Firstly, I love the word squander, so nice work on that. But also, I have a lot of issues with that. I think perhaps the idea of potential is the wrong way to look at it because you’re sort of doing your thing wherever and however you are. The idea of wasting potential is sort of ridiculous, it’s not like I have a box with potential inside and I can either use it judiciously or pour it on the ground and jump in it like a puddle. Perhaps more to the point, though: is life about living up to your potential (real or imagined) or about finding meaning, fulfillment, and cats? I mean, if I end up in middle management for the city of Gillette, Wyoming but am happy and fulfilled, who is to say that I oughtn’t be there because I am capable of so much more? Not that I really foresee Gillette, Wyoming being my long-term destination in life. But what if I did?
I don’t know, it is what it is. This got a little heavy (read: juvenilely philosophical) even for me toward the end. I almost used the phrase ‘human condition’ which obviously would have been a disaster. I hope you’ll forgive me. Anyway, until next week.
Keep dreaming, my friends. Keep dreaming.