It may be obvious, but I’m writing this with shaky hands. I’m just coming out of one of those dazed states of confusion induced by unexpected events that occur all at once. I still don’t have full energy but I’m sick of sleeping. To make a long story short, I’m recovering from a concussion.
Recently, my head and a fast moving windowpane met in a highly unexpected manner. To add insult to injury, I picked up a summer cold/cough/my-throat-is-on-fire sickness just as my headache was starting to subside. I mention this not as a cautionary tale about the dangers of indoor breezes and annoying viruses. I share this to explain that despite the bubble that is grad school, things will fall apart sometimes. My forced “cognitive rest” has been equal parts enlightening, terrifying, and vulnerable. It’s been a slow process of healing where I’ve repeatedly been confronted with my own fragility and resilience. I don’t exactly how this all fits into my art practice or what the impact will have on my thesis, but I know it has changed me. Everything is connected somehow, if only in the randomness of thought that occurs during days of lying in a silent dark room as your brain heals.
Most of my posts on this blog have been highlighting the many positive aspects of grad school with the sort of upbeat optimism you want to hear when you’re considering starting such an endeavor. But as my time of sharing my grad school experience with all of you comes to a close (only one more post left!), I want to share another side of the reality of grad school: self-doubt.
Even as I head into my thesis year, there are many days that I want to drop out and get some “secure” 9-5 job where I don’t have to think. I often wonder if I can make it through the program or what I’m even doing in school when so much craziness is going on in the world. I’ve learned from my peers that these doubts are normal. As of today, I’m still here working and facing the challenge of being an artist (and the additional challenge of being an artist in the year 2018). The fact is, time keeps moving, windows will fall on your head, and the world will always be crazy. Nothing is static and the biggest moments in life tend to come with their fair share of doubts.
The self-doubt that happens in grad school is a sort of boiling everything down to essentials. It is both terrifying and liberating to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself who you are and why you’re doing what do. It’s more difficult than any exam. The truth of it is that your grad school experience will look nothing like mine and your career as an artist will not follow the same path that your professors/mentors took. Whatever direction you think you’re heading in may be incredibly far from where you end up. The good news is that even dark, silent rooms can change us.