Photo by Christian Bowen on Unsplash
It’s July! My June was taken up with our summer residency, which went great. It was the first residency in years that was…normal? We didn’t have a huge question mark looming over it (will it have to be virtual? can it be in person? Hybrid?). We didn’t have to do the Covid testing, which was always a huge lift that lasted right up till residency started. And over all it was just…normal.
Something my system apparently wasn’t prepared for. I realized at one point right before the residency that I was BRACED. I hadn’t made any plans for the two weeks before residency, and I didn’t want to do anything. I felt like I needed to be home, by my computer, Ready For Anything. And as days went by and nothing happened, I realized how much this was pandemic related chicanery. “Normal” wasn’t on my radar anymore.
Obviously, I am playing a tiny, tiny violin. My level of pandemic-related disruption is nothing compared to what others experienced; or what, say, someone in the Ukraine is experiencing; or what refugees experience.
But it made me think about the idea of disruption, and it’s what I wrote about for my lil speech at our MFA graduation this June. I thought I’d share it with you. Thanks for indulging me. ;-)
As I sat down to write this graduation speech the word “disruption” kept coming to mind. This graduating class, like last January’s, had the mother of all disruptions to their MFA journey—the pandemic and all the changes it wrought in both their lives and the program they’d signed up for.
And yet, here they are! Some are graduating a little later than expected, through no fault of their own. And some are missing classmates who have had to defer for reasons they couldn’t control.
But here they are. And this is a huge lesson to all of us. As most of you know I have a PhD in English literature and an entirely made-up PhD I gave to myself in Armchair Psychology, pieced together mostly through podcasts. But I love positive psychology and the research around happiness, especially when it comes to the link between values and living a meaningful life.
We think that external achievements bring us joy. Things like raises and diamond rings and job titles and yachts. But as anyone who has ever read an article about a billionaire trading in a very big yacht for an even bigger yacht, clearly there’s something missing in that equation.
Indeed, the research shows that what really brings us meaning, and through meaning, happiness, is living our values. For many of us in this room, our values stem from our desire to create. To share our voices and our unique perspectives. And, if we’re lucky, to help others who struggle, as we have struggled.
And things will try to disrupt that. Pandemics, as we’ve learned. But usually the disruptions are both more banal and more insidious. We are disrupted by our bodies betraying us, by our loved one’s illnesses or accidents, by relationships that sap rather than support, by the day to day grind, in a country that makes doing art for a living really, really difficult.
If the pandemic teaches us anything, let it teach us that we can live through disruption. To help us do so, we can search for our values on the horizon, even in the midst of chaos. Let those values be your beacon, shining through even in your darkest moments. For it’s not about being perfect or reaching material goals of success. It’s about creating a life that nurtures you, so that you have the space and the joy to share your stories.
That was it! It was a lovely residency and I’m always so inspired by our students. And now I get to mooch around all of July. I’m staying put in Pittsburgh and making myself sit, and do good things for my body and my brain, and rest and relax. Which I’m finding very challenging, but in a good way. It’s making me reckon with my always wanting MORE which I’ll probably write about at you soon.
Who else reading this struggles with MORE? Tell me about it. I’m curious.
Have a great week and REST if you can. We deserve it.
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