This past month, I’ve come to completion on a big life project. A few years ago, I embarked on a thesis-based Master’s course and a short month ago, I successfully passed my oral defence.
I want to talk about completion and what it means for me. In part, to finish my own completion, but also in part to raise your awareness of something that we all do.
I’m bad a completing. That is to say, I’m bad at understanding that something has come to an end. And I’m bad at fully letting it go. As an emotional avoider for the majority of my life, I am very skilled and resourced at washing my hands. At walking away (make that a run). Or at staying around for too long.
This past year, I was engaged in a year-long mentorship program, and when it finally culminated back in January, I attended a virtual “graduation ceremony”. The focus was not on walking across a stage to the applause of your loved ones, but rather a “making sense” process. A place of inquiry. A place to fully explore who we had been and who we we had become. This is when I realized that I’m bad at endings.
My stories are really all about “what’s next”, a kind of “get over it” attitude. And even as I’ve been wading further and further into the depths of my feelings, particularly around grief, there is still so much more to understand.
So, with this big thing finally tied up (paperwork pending), I knew I needed to have a closing ceremony for myself, so to speak. This Master’s, over the course of a few years, was an emotional, intellectual and spiritual journey. It also took place over the course of a variety of other Big Life Things: falling in love, deepening into self-inquiry, a spiritual reawakening, leaving my job, my diabetes diagnosis. The Master’s wove itself in and out of each of these events and I wanted to acknowledge each and every aspect of this pilgrimage. I wondered what it would look like to call my energy back from an energetic space, the space where my Masters lived and breathed for those years.
I also wanted to acknowledge and forgive myself. Anyone who has done this sort of thing knows that it can rip you apart mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Solitary academic work is a real grind and I wasn’t always a gracious hostess. The anguish, the fear, the anxiety, the perfectionism, the procrastination. There was much to love, much to forgive, much to heal from this journey.
To fully know and understand who I had been in the process, and what identities or attachments I could let go of: the failure, the procrastinator, the motivation-less, the bad student, the people pleaser. What does it mean to have finished? And who have I become? What do I know about myself now that wasn’t available to me before? The academic, the Master, the strong critic, the passionate woman, the do-er, the writer. I shook off that which no longer fit, I called back my wholeness.
Providing myself with the time to “graduate” on my own terms and in my own space allowed me to access emotions that weren’t altogether fully apparent. The completion of this project was blissful, but also full of heartache. I received the love and support of my family, friends and colleagues. But I ached for the smile of approval from my father, now gone more than 10 years. This will be my third graduation that he’s physically missed. The longing for his approval remains. With tears streaming down my face and soreness of throat, I fully felt and accepted this loss, again.
There was also a need to fully acknowledge what I’ve done. As women, we are prone to down-playing our successes. “It’s no big deal”, “Everyone has a master’s nowadays”, “it’s not even interesting”, “no one will ever read it”. To speak highly of ourselves is taboo. We must be gracious and humble, accept praise quietly. Acknowledging my successes is a work in progress. Spending time here was so very liberating. Admitting that I kicked ass at my defence was fucking awesome. Fully receiving love and support was beautiful.
And so, in the quiet of my den, in the wee morning, I graduated. I called back my energy from the struggles I faced. I came to completion.
Does this resonate for you? If so, I’d love to hear your story in the comments below so we can all learn from one another. Sisterhood is key to continuing expansion.