It’s strange to be writing my last blog post for Columbia after two years of documenting my journey this way. It feels like I’ve had a pen pal with me throughout and this is my last letter to you. I think, if not for this part of my job, I wouldn’t have put such intentional introspection into my experience here. Sure, I would have always written my thesis about my process, I would create and create and create, as I am still doing, but I don’t think I would have thought too critically about what was happening to me, the human at the center of it all. So, since I don’t have a thesis paper to write on myself, I hope you’ll indulge me in a condensed version here.
My first steps in Chicago were focused on getting to know myself. Who are you? How do you exist in this space? Those questions were easier to answer than they might be for most because the small size of my pandemic cohort made it incredibly easy to take up space. I think that was the biggest lesson I learned in my first year: how to take up space for myself, unapologetically. The second year has been filled to the brim with lessons and firsts. This was my first time living in another country, my first time in a cohort where English is not always the most effective way to communicate, my first time visiting Germany at all, my first time getting a visa (the list could go on and on). But if I had to pick the two most important lessons I’ve learned they would be these: learning to be a more responsible and active member of a large group (not just a sensitive and honest one!) and learning to meet an audience halfway. The second one is still a work in progress but I think it started in Chicago and it wasn’t until I was in a place where, because of the language barrier, I must consider how an audience experiences my work here that I really came to terms with what that requires of me. And most importantly, the second year and all its challenges (language, larger cohort size, immigration, workload) have continued to challenge the very first lesson I learned in Chicago. How well do I, under stress, stick to my guns and take my space?
What a sad thing to say goodbye to Marginalia! This job has been one of my most treasured. I’ve loved Columbia, I’ve loved the ambassador program, and I love writing for this blog and reading my fellow ambassadors’ musings as well. I think I will return to it, periodically, as a time capsule of this journey and a way to remind myself of how much I’ve grown. A lot of people thought I was foolish to start graduate school during a pandemic but all the theatres were closed and my day job was in coffee so in a way, this ended up being the perfect moment to return to the grindstone. The people I’ve met, the incredibly close friendships I’ve made, the huge strides I’ve taken in my creative process, and all the wonderful artists I’ve met have shaped me into something new and beautiful. I think Abbi in 2019 would be proud of what I’ve accomplished, I know I certainly am.