In the summer of 2004, I was preparing for my Ph.D. exams and panicking. I was feeling completely unprepared, worried about my ability to perform well (or even pass), and uncertain about whether or not I should postpone the exams. Generally, I was feeling highly anxious about my ability to be a successful academic.
I asked my brother-in-law for a blessing, and the blessing I received gave me a huge amount of comfort. It promised things specific to the exam experience that were extremely meaningful. It also made some general promises about my life, which I interpreted a specific way at the time. However, when I read through my journal a few weeks ago (where I had recorded my thoughts afterwards), I saw this blessing in a new light.
In the blessing, I was told that the upcoming period of my life would be a time that I would look back on and see as a “defining moment in my life,” both academically and more broadly. At the time, I interpreted that to mean that things would finally come together for me academically–that my exams would go well, that a dissertation project, which I had been unable to formulate, would cohere, that I’d figure out the whole publication thing, etc. Also, at the time, I was getting to know the person who would become my fiancé (now my ex), and new, defining personal experiences definitely seemed like they were on the horizon.
I made it through my exam experience, which aside from having to retake my oral exam, went well. But a year later, my life started falling apart. My personal life got much more complicated, a bunch of emotional issues from my past started haunting me, and I entered one of the darkest periods of my life. I managed to get a dissertation prospectus written and approved, but then I hit a wall–my life was such an emotional disaster that I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t write; I couldn’t do academic work; I could barely manage to teach.
For the past six months, I have been chronicling my emergence from these depths, but one thing I don’t think I’ve talked enough about is the realizations I’ve had about the paths my life has taken. In the past five years, my life has been completely transformed, and I see how this period of time has been a “defining moment.”
I made the professional switch from academic to teacher, a switch I’m not sure I would have had the courage to make had my emotional problems not interfered so severely with my academic pursuits. I went through difficult experiences that taught me a lot of hard lessons about how I relate to people and deal emotionally with problems—lessons I will take with me into future relationships and situations. I learned the depth of my own strength as I not only refused to break under the constant stress and pain, but managed to tackle a new job and remain professionally functional despite the complete emotional mess my life was in.
I still don’t fully understand what happened to me, and God and I still have issues to sort out. But in many ways, I have found a new Seraphine through this experience.
And I’m still pondering the end of the blessing. The final words that my brother-in-law left me with was (to quote my journal), “as I exhibited faith, I would be able to feel the love of God stronger than I ever have before in my life.” I have to admit that feeling God’s love the past few years has been extremely difficult. I’m hoping I haven’t missed out on it somehow. I think I’m figuring out the faith part (some days better than others), and I hope that as I finish repairing my relationship with God, that his love will once again suffuse my life (or that I will come to recognize that it has been there all along) and that I will see this final blessing come to fruition.