Words unsaid part II, and the never-ending degree program

“I am going to be in school forbleepingever.” That was the thought I had yesterday in class as we considered how this conference we attended has changed our research and/or our career path. It was one of those things where I was shown the power of creativity and I know the impact its had on my own life, so I had to ask myself where it was in my work? Then I repeated, “I am going to be in school forbleepingever.” My dissertation keeps getting bigger. There just has to be this piece about developing the spirit, and of course I can’t leave out how that relates to leaders…and now its like but what about art?! While the practical me, which lives in the dungeon of my mind and only comes out to do my taxes, says, “bitch…you need to graduate!”

I had just finished a reflection paper for class in which I wrote about stepping into power and not being fearful of my own potential. I’d just submitted this body of work dedicated to thoughts of self-authorization and the importance of perspective and vision; knowledge that it is not about me. And with these words fresh on my mind I turned the page in my journal and saw this picture.


I chuckled. Then I said, okay okay…noted. The God’s honest truth is that academia is my safe haven, and while I may research here and even reside here, my work will be bigger than the university I teach at, and transcend my field. What I have to get over is…myself. Girl, this is not about you. Get out of the way of this blessing. That’s what I feel right now.

More than ever my thoughts have surrounded grief. I made a claim in my Masters that all work is grief work. I teach to that claim. I used it in Terri’s class, often, to make sense of the overwhelming emotion that lived in the executive classroom. Even today, when I walk in that room I feel the presence of a million mental models laid to rest. You know how Brene Brown researches shame and vulnerability? I want to research grief and possibility. Taking a sweep over the things I write about anyway, its those things. Almost always. And while I see that “coming soon” I still wonder, well what about right now?

I need a thought partner. I need to talk this out, and through, and figure out where in this matrix I fall. I can tell you that, I’m close. And I know because my world has nearly stopped spinning.

If I lay in bed and look up at heaven, dreaming of what my life looks like…I see published books. I see a cherry wood office with three degrees in coordinating frames and a big photo of Neyland stadium. I see black and whites of my husband, children and I scattered throughout. I see a home filled with questions and books and artifacts from a life wholly lived. A kitchen with fresh flowers and fresh fruit. A living room with magazines, coffee table books, blankets, and a sofa that lovingly welcomes your feet upon it. A kitchen table wrapped in prayers and gratitude. A yard with jump ropes and bicycles laying to rest, temporarily. A closet full of clothes for life’s many occasions. A silver frame holding in it a picture of my best girlfriends and I. A jewelry box containing the locket and earrings from my mother’s wedding day. On my fridge, each of the invitations to my sisters’ graduations. And in the cabinets, the cast iron I bought to make my grandmother’s Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. And nowhere in my dream exists fear or trepidation, just love. Love and love’s residual.

And so, to get there I must say the words that burn my throat and cause my palms to sweat. I must be disheveled and imperfect, and everything else that scares me. I have to do whatever I can to get closer to love. And I suppose if that takes another year of graduate school, so be it. Its my own grieving. For “the plan” and the shoulds, and the defense that follows, “oh you’re still in school?!” Yes I am. And I absolutely love it.


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