The dissertation defense was a deeper experience for me than I anticipated it would be. I have been so focused on finishing the paper while balancing other aspects of life that I think I’ve lost a bit of myself along the way. Or, at least I’ve lost a bit of my ability to feel. Here I stand at the end of the journey as I complete these final ten revisions (did I mention there are ten?), and I find myself trying to pick up various pieces of my brain that I may have dropped behind me by mistake, much like one would drop breadcrumbs in a forest in order to find one’s way home.
The funny thing is that tonight I find myself remembering the end of high school. I didn’t know it when I was there, but that was one of the times in my life when I felt powerful. I was a badass pianist. I honestly don’t know if I was ever a better pianist than senior year of high school. I got into college on my piano skills and, I guess, the fact that I could write my way out of a box. I was at the top of my game as a pianist, I was in decent physical shape, I had a full head of hair... things were going well.
I went to college and the comparison bug started. I was constantly comparing myself with others and immediately making bad judgments against myself. Not sure where that came from. Instead of the constant comparison being a motivating force to compete and perform better, it got to be pretty damaging. And I lost myself in the process. I couldn’t be good enough to satisfy me. There were times I didn’t even try. I had to spend a long while picking up the pieces after college. Don’t get me wrong: I was a decent musician upon graduation, but what was I doing with music then? Could I really identify as a musician? Not really. And I never ended up working in music full-time afterward, so it was easy to feel a bit lost after having gained admission to college as a musician, for crying out loud.
Then I started my master’s degree. It wasn’t as bad. I was finding myself in a new career, and in general I liked it. It took me a few years to pick up the pieces again, but I was able to do alright. And ultimately I had picked them up enough to hold a good job, do well, marry the Wife, have a kid, and start the doctorate appropriately. Life was pretty good.
So, at least I’ve been through the piece-picking-up process a few times in the past, and I’ve been successful with it. In fact, I think the process has already started. Colors appear brighter. Music sounds clearer. In general I feel more powerful. I’m more centered. I feel more capable. And apparently, people are interested in what I think. That’s pretty neat. Maybe I have badass thoughts? The good kind of badass, though, not the “I’m a bad person,” badass.
Finally. Self-confidence is a good thing. And it’s been on holiday a long, long time.