Did you ever feel like your life is falling apart into small pieces, and while you are trying to put them back together the result does not seem to make sense? Welcome to the past three weeks of my thesis life!
Three weeks ago I submitted the first draft of my literature review. The process of writing “that thing” had been a pain, and while I’m not saying that writing a literature review is easy, I should still have asked myself why I felt so disconnected from the process. After all, my thesis is a self study and I should be able to resonate with it, right? But well, I am a busy person and the deadline for my first full draft was coming up, so I ignored the feeling of frustration and yearning for coherence and continued on writing my discussion chapter.
Two days into writing my discussion, which felt equally painful, I gave up. I literally couldn’t look at what I had written without feeling frustrated to the max. The words on the page made sense grammatically and structurally, but they seemed to be completely meaningless. Once again, this is a self-study! This thesis is all about me! It should be meaningful and it had felt like that when analyzing the data. So what was different?
I decided to do what I usually do when I feel confused, frustrated, and lost: sort out my apartment (it is actually one of my favorite self-care techniques)! Motivated by having watched a fascinating documentary on minimalism at the end of last year (on Netflix, highly recommended ;] ), I decided to make this a challenge, asking myself with every material possession: “Do I need this?” or “Does it bring value to my life?” If I wasn’t able to clearly answer the question with a YES, I would toss/sell/donate it.
The beginning was fairly easy. I started in the kitchen and probably tossed half of the things that I owned. It got way harder the closer I moved into my main living space, particularly when it came to clothes. At some point I simply had to ask myself why it was so hard for me to let go of this stuff? Some of the things I hadn’t used in over a year! After some time of rumination I realized that all those things reflected what I would consider part of my identity or part of my “self”. Not necessarily a bad thing, but my reason for holding on to them was that I still perceived my own understanding of who I am as fragile. And the moment I acknowledged this, I also had the insight that my thesis was in essence an exploration of that question: Who am I? And who am I as a dance/movement therapist? Suddenly everything made sense–my data, my results, the experiences of the past week! I decided that moment to completely rewrite my literature review and discussion chapter, and writing never felt so good.
Now, you might initiate a slow clap asking “Congrats, Jessica, wasn’t that obvious?” or “Great, so why are you telling us that?” First, no I totally didn’t see it coming. Second, I am sharing my experience because I do believe that often we are asking the wrong questions. When faced with dissatisfaction or frustration, many would ask the obvious (and to be honest, the easier) questions; the questions that first pop into your mind when thinking about a problem. But often the answers one might get are just as frustrating as the questions asked. So, maybe one needs to ask more basic/ universal/ essential questions such as “what do I want in life”, “is this meaningful” or “who am I”. I am not saying that this will be the case for everybody, but if you can ask these questions and know the answers to them then there is also no harm in doing it.
As we are approaching the end of the academic year, graduation, and potentially the time to think about starting a graduate program in the future, it might add value to sit and think about those basic/universal/essential questions (or whatever you might call them). You found Columbia’s DMT&C program and are excited to apply for it *yay*. But why is that? Would this program and the degree add value to your life? Is the work you would be doing meaningful to you? Who are you and does the work of dance/movement therapists align with your self? You don’t want to spend $65,000 on a program that will leave you frustrated and dissatisfied for the rest of your life (and honestly, going through this program without the passion for it is probably like going through hell, twice).
Even if you do not have to deal with any of those problems, asking such questions gives way for an interesting ride through your own mind! :)