it’ll all be over soon
That date’s important to me for two reasons. It’s my mother’s birthday. This year, she would have been 77. (On December 24th, she’ll have been gone for 10 years–an entire decade). It’s also the drop-dead date for my graduate thesis. (The complete draft was due yesterday, but my professor gave us a reprieve and decided to give us some extra days to do the final final draft since we all had really challenging times during this ordeal).
I’m trying very hard to finish before then–because I just need it to be done–but it feels appropriate.
After all, I did this for her. Well, for me–but with her in mind. With my healing about her in mind.
Four years ago, I made a pretty drastic decision. I had just finished a Master’s in Corporate Training and was pursuing the last few classes that would give me an Ed S. Except I realized I didn’t really want to be a trainer, and I didn’t need that Ed S to do it. I wasn’t happy with the school I was attending, and I needed a big change. At the time, I was going through a major transition. Work-wise, I had stumbled and wasn’t sure where I was going to land. I was reeling from a string of romantic ups and downs that–while tremendously important to my inner healing–made me a bit sad and bitter. I’d come to a place where I realized the life I’d lived for the last few years was basically one tailspin after another. I’d faced the absolute worst fears I’d ever had, and things were finally starting to move up. But I was still at the bottom of the well–and there wasn’t a ladder in sight. I was going to have to crawl out of this mess.
I got real clear about my life–what I actually wanted from it. And I acted. I decided to quit my Ed S program and start a brand new Master’s. It was crazy. I had a Master’s. Why do it all again? What was the point? Was I just stalling again–trying to figure it out? Nope–I had a game plan. One that–if it worked–would give me absolutely everything I’d ever wanted. One that made sense–complete and utter sense–almost too much sense–and would allow me to finally use all of the things I thought I’d never use.
Step one was applying to my old college–the place that crafted the thinker I am today…the place that taught me about community and service. One of the few places that always felt like home. I always knew I’d be back, and somehow, I always knew this program would be part of it. It was almost too easy. Everything slipped into place. I did my interview with the faculty chair, and I just remembered feeling humbled–talking to this man who’d fought to help Africans get clean water. I told him about my dreams–about why I wanted to do this–about my vision for myself. About redeeming my mother’s tragic end. I got in and tackled each class like I did back when I had motivation. I fell in love with many of my professors and sank deep into the ideas I only knew about superficially.
But–then–like any good program–the work I was doing sank in…made me think more about what I was doing and why. What I wanted to do. Suddenly, all my ideas transformed into gigantic ideas–things that would mobilize communities and redefine how we deal with major issues. I fell into a massive love affair with the idea of social enterprise and started questioning why I was studying this if that was a better fit. And then, I started doubting how one person could do this….it was so large and daunting. And then I started wondering if–like always–I’d bitten off more than I could chew. And then, I started wondering if I was the right person for this job.
I mostly kept my doubts to myself and a few friends as I plodded along. Slowly, all that was left to take was the classes I had zero interest in–finance and marketing and others that made my eyes glaze over. Life happened and I decided to take breaks here and there. At one point, I maxed out student loans and financial aid. So, I quit. I’d lost my passion, and if it meant making huge financial sacrifices to finish, I wasn’t sure it was worth it. I took almost a year off, and then that drive came back. I had four classes left. So, I took them–one by one–with big breaks in between.
I’ve been in this program–which is normally completed in two years–for the last four years of my life. This is my second time taking this thesis course. I started this before and then got overwhelmed with life and had to put it off. So, I signed up again and have been knee deep in it since October.
This class has illuminated all the doubts I have about myself. It’s made me feel like I know nothing and am the laziest person ever. I’ve gotten in my own way pretty much all the time. I’ve felt constantly disappointed in myself. I’ve started over about four times now–completely dismantling work I’d worked hard on–just because it wasn’t right. I’ve been incredibly hard on myself–terrified–confused–and just plain apathetic. Last weekend, I thought about quitting again…because I can’t do this. I’m not good enough. I have nothing to say. No one will care.
Except I do. Probably too much.
I whined and bitched and moaned. I got angry when people suggested things because I didn’t need their perfect offerings. I didn’t need advice or fixing. I just needed to rage against myself and all my good intentions. I just needed to complain about how I didn’t have anything left to give. I just needed to fall down that well and sit there again.
It’s part of who I am. To start over, again and again, and fall down–again and again. Not because I can’t do it, but because–in order to do it–I have to know I want to.
I don’t know what the value of this is. I don’t know what I’ll do with it–if I’ll do anything at all. That master plan has changed, and what started as the heart of it is now just another option. That feels right.
But I do know that education is the one thing they can never take from you, and nothing is wasted.
And I do know this thing is hard for me because it’s the first real thing I’ve done–start to finish–that my mother didn’t know about…that I didn’t tell her about–that she didn’t give the thumbs up to. It’s the first thing that makes me someone who is not exactly her daughter. That person who watched her die. That 26 year old me. The girl who almost died with her. Some part of me will always be afraid to not be known by her. If, in some crazy magic world, she’d come back to this life and find me changed. Not exactly hers.
And I did it for her. In her honor. To make all of it matter, somehow. To reclaim the wreckage of that life and make it something more than that. But mostly for me, to heal the part of me that’s always broken–that wants nothing more than to heal and heal others.
If I do this–I can do all those other things that terrify me–and I have no excuses. No outs. I will prove I absolutely am worthy. That I know enough to be taken seriously. That I can work hard and pay for it–that no one can take any of it away. That I did this alone, without her. That I have nothing to prove.
That, in one decade, I created a life where she doesn’t have to exist. My life.
It’s hard. Not the research. Not the writing. But accepting that this motherless life is mine, and I deserve it. That I want it. It’s letting her–and all the dreams we dreamed together–go. That I have something more to give than my broken heart.
This is me choosing joy. This is me choosing not to be known by her. This is me choosing to be me. This is me, still: scared.