In our first year of doctoral studies, we take classes which push our ways of thinking in new directions in a process that Martusewicz calls “self-detachment,” or a “willingness to question one’s entrenched points of view, to subject one’s identity to an analytic interpretive process, and to distance oneself from those positions if necessary” (p. 20). As I pursue my second year at Warner, this process of self-detachment has left me flailing to find my identity – questioning everything and resolving nothing. We learn how to deconstruct the structures of power, the political implications of school and pedagogy, our discourses all the way down to our own beliefs. In this way, there seems to be no process for reconstruction afterwards. I am left to read about others’ journeys and paths, yet it’s been very difficult for me to reconstruct my own.
Grad school is a transformation that is not just academic. We struggle for a balance in our schoolwork, our assistantships and our private lives; aggressively fighting for time to ourselves, to take a break and to disconnect from our doctoral studies. Yet in that moment when you’ve carved out this time to yourself, you find that those doctoral studies have become you, and that you’ve taken all those thoughts, wrestlings, issues and ideas with you wherever you go, in whatever you do. There is no longer a separation in your multiple selves because the boundaries have been absentmindedly blurred in the struggle. It is this struggle though, that transforms us completely, all the way down to our hearts and spirit.
Oftentimes, I feel like an exhausted warrior fighting against the enemies of injustice and ignorance on a battlefield that constantly changes. There are days when I want to throw away my battle axe, collapse in the mud, and surrender in a sea of dispair – believing that I am only a toddler armed with a wooden sword, going to Iraq to fight with this false notion that my tiny battle cries will actually make a difference against a nation of trained guerrilla soldiers. The world treats us this way more often times than not, and there are days when I fully believe that I play in a pretend battle while the real one rages on with bloody casualties that I cannot prevent or stop. There are other days when I feel that this is only a deception – that I do make a difference, but those that choose inaction to preserve the status quo would like me to believe otherwise, so that I stop fighting. Knowing this, I take up my battle axe, draw my katana, and run back into the battle.
Other times, I stare at the blank page on my word document or blog and ask myself two questions: What am I? What am I becoming? On those days, my preparation for battle becomes a deliberate and profound ritual of putting on the gauntlets, the armor, and the vast array of weaponry at my disposal. There’s bloodlust in my eyes, and I can hear the voices of my enemies calling to my soul, screaming for me to ride out onto the battlefield to fight. On these days, I realize that fighting is the only thing I know how to do. It is what I want to do, whether or not my fight makes a difference. Why? Because there’s times when the only difference that matters is the one in myself, and that I fight for me. In a miasma of self-doubt, confusion, exhaustion at times, and even apathy because I do so much and deconstruct so much, it is the fight itself that makes me go on. It is my realization that this is what I was born to do.