Tuesday, December 13, 2011

discovery discourse

July, 2008 is when my doctoral journey began. In my first residency, the professors kept referring to “the program” as a journey. The doctoral journey and dissertation mountain had little meaning to me then, but they do now.  The first leg of my journey is over (i.e. classes are finished) and I’m now very slowly trudging up the mountain. Looking back, I recognize I’m a different person now.

One of the most dramatic changes in me resulted from the requirement to submit a reflection statement at the end of every week of every class throughout the entire program. The statement was personal and not graded. The assignment required the student to state something of significance that he learned from the discussions that week, discuss why it was important, and describe how he could apply the information to his personal or professional life. The minimum required length was 100 words. You can’t imagine how difficult these reflection assignments were for me at the beginning of the program! It took me hours to write a short paragraph that I thought was not an embarrassment to post.

Why was that? I’ve always lived life like I was in a car, speeding down the highway with no rear-view mirror or windows except for the front windshield. My approach to education was the same. I focused on collecting information that may or may not be useful with the assumption that all assigned content was relevant. Writing reflection statements forced me to be discriminating, to really consider importance and implications of the information. Metaphorically, I learned that my car has mirrors and more than one window.  As a result, I’ve started paying more attention to everything going on in the world, and to my own experiences too.  I've become much more reflective in my personal life.

The implication of all that I’ve said here is that I’m realizing why my life has always seemed so meaningless.  I’ve lived life without assigning meaning to any of it - reality is what it is and nothing more. WYSIWYG!  Once things passed from view of the front windshield, they were gone and forgotten.

I used to think that people who had meaningful lives had something I was born without and couldn’t have.  I’ve learned that I can’t live passively and wait for meaning to present itself.  People find meaning through the way they interpret their experiences and by embracing their circumstances and the things they value.  If I don’t look for meaning, I’ll never find it.

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