I started a PhD program in Conservation Biology back in 2001... did all my classwork, all of my field work... but I never finished writing the dissertation. Last week my family and I went to visit Flagstaff, AZ where I had been working on said PhD. It's where my oldest daughter was born... and for her 10th birthday she wanted to go back... to see her roots. But so much happened for me while we were there.
We went to visit my field sites... the refreshing aspen stands where I spent many days alone, looking for nests.
But they were gone. Where there had been acres of aspen there are now only a few trees. The trees that are standing are sickly and sparse. Many have been cut down for firewood. My heart is broken. I grieved. Not only for the aspen... but... as it turns out... I grieved the unwritten dissertation.
Have you ever felt the loss and regret mingle in your blood and settle in your stomach? Yeah. That.
The aspen represented who I had been as an academic, and the visions and goals I'd had of my life at that time. What was staring me in the face was that it really was gone. Both who I was then AND the aspen stands themselves. The change left no room for anything but complete release. I couldn't pretend anymore that I'd ever go back and finish.
Things change. Always. They die. They are born. The life cycle itself drives change.
I was able to do a small releasing ceremony - burying a blank piece of paper (the unfinished dissertation) wrapped around a small stick (the forest) under the song of the plumbeous vireo (my favorite of the two species I studied).
Sometimes we're blindsided by how we've changed as we focused on the details of our lives. And, for me, even when I had consciously moved on years ago... at some level I still clung to that persona. We all have to move forward, embrace who we are becoming. That's not always easy... but it's a journey I've taken over and over. This is just the latest iteration.
How do you embrace change? Do you struggle? Or does it come easy for you?
Bit by bit I've shed who I thought I was, or who others told me I am, to become more truly myself. Today I will sing to the wild in me, the true in me! I celebrate the passing of the academic as the true and only me, in the same moment that I grieve it. I embrace me as I am. And that heals me because it heals the perception I had that I wasn't enough.
I'm an explorer of inner realms, a pattern observer, and an invitation maker. I believe that healing the world starts within.
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