Over the last two weeks, I have received two great compliments from my advisor about my thesis. First, last week he posted two exemplars of the thesis proposal, and he chose to post mine as one of the examples. I was elated that what I had written at that point should be chosen to demonstrate an effectively written proposal. Then, today he gave me feedback on my second draft of my proposal and encouraged me to turn it in so that I could get to work on the thesis itself. I am happy that I have an extra week to work on my thesis, but I am anxious as I move forward.
So, what I am anxious about? Just finished reading chapter six of Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day by Joan Bolker. Chapter six deals with “Interruptions from Outside and Inside.” It is too easy for me to get caught up in the nonsense and static that is in my head. It’s also easy for me to get distracted by all of the other things going on around me. However, I feel pretty good about how I’m doing emotionally right now, so I don’t think that I’ll get caught up in anything as I move forward. Things are pretty calm right now at home and work, so I would be surprised if any major catastrophe happened in the next few weeks. But, life is also very unpredictable. No use worrying about things that haven’t happened. Don’t steal my joy now for fear of a future that may never come.
The only really emotional part of my paper will be in discussing the mental health crisis amongst teens in the United States today. I have unfortunately experienced losing a student to suicide two years ago, and many of my students experience severe depression and various anxiety disorders. Having struggled with anxiety and depression for the last twenty-five years, I know too well the battle that my students are dealing with today. And there is always the concern about vicarious trauma as I continue to teach in the high school setting. Life is difficult, and unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be getting any easier for most of our teens today who have many things that negatively influence them emotionally, psychologically, spiritually, and relationally. This subject is very close to home for me.
However, I feel that I have gotten a pretty good handle on my own depression and anxiety over the last year with medication, therapy, and a growing relationship with God. I also feel like the factors that led to my depression last year are no longer things that bring me down. My marriage is at its strongest, my relationship with my son is better than it has been before, my job is stable, and I have great friends who understand my struggles. I have also learned to mourn those I have lost, but to continue to move forward remembering that the reason that I mourn is because of my great compassion and love for them. This is why I commit my life to students: to demonstrate compassion to people who do not always experience kindness from others.
So, now what? I’d like to echo Flannery’s prayer today: “Help me to get what is more than natural into my work – help me to love and bear with my work on that account. If I have to sweat for it, dear God, let it be as in Your service. I would like to be intelligently holy. I am a presumptuous fool, but maybe the vague thing in me that keeps me in is hope.”
O’Connor, Flannery. A Prayer Journal. Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2015.