This is the third installment on this page, the "Why Am I Writing This Anyway" information. Throughout my first two years in grad school, my creative writing output was minimal. Partly this was due to the overwhelming amount of time a PhD requires, but even more so it was the fact that I felt unsure about my decision to stay for a PhD for well over a year. I felt cramped in an academic world, and missed the freedom and ease of the gap year. When there weren't consequences and the road was unknown but easy. I struggled to find purpose in the path I had chosen, lamenting the loss of creative outlets and human interaction. But I eventually found my place in academia, working to add teaching, mentoring, scientific outreach, and journalism to my daily tasks. They all paired with my research, and I slowly began to realize that with a PhD I could keep doing all these things I loved throughout my career. So I stayed on, and am in the throes of doing research in the US and abroad. As I begin a six month stint in Brazil, I want to tap back into that creative writing passion that has gotten somewhat lost in the labs and scientific papers over the last two years. Partly to keep in touch with everyone as I did during the gap year, but also to explore another side of my life through writing. So here's to another adventure, and telling the stories along the way.
Why I Write Now (Post Gap Year: Summer 2015)
I started scribbling in journals during family trips when I was about 10. For a long time, that was the only time I wrote, when I traveled. This culminated in a gap year after undergrad, where I traveled without schedule from to Seattle, to Thailand, to Madison with a few stops in between. That's when this blog started, and when I began to write in earnest. The blog was a way to practice writing, but also a way to stay in touch with everyone I cared about and share my journey. Writing became a deep connection to my own thoughts and my friends and family.
Following this free-wheeling year where every day was something new and exciting, I struggled to write both in my journal and on the blog. I couldn't see the stories and characters that were so obvious when my environment was constantly changing with travel. Life didn't seem as rich as before, and thus it didn't beg to be written down and shared. But I slowly gained perspective. I worked to see the stories in the everyday, the moments of brilliance in the mundane. It was harder no doubt, but once you begin to look for those special moments and people, they start to show up more often.
So I keep the blog going today with posts sharing anything that pops into my head from the past week. It can be anything from a trip I took to a lunch I had with a friend, to the struggles of making my way through grad school. There are stories to be experienced everyday. I write to remember and share them.
My Gap Year Mission Statement (Fall 2014)
So why am I doing this year off and writing about it along the way?
I was sick of school. The grind of St. Olaf's intensity, while good for getting a lot done, wore me down. I needed a break and to do something less mentally hectic.
I love traveling. I know it's not a sound environmental practice and it's an indulgence only people with the means and time to do it can afford. But for now I just can't stop. There are too many people I think about meeting and too many places I think about seeing.
I want to learn more about sustainable agriculture so I can apply some principles to a personal garden or future hobby farm.
I want to throw myself into unfamiliar situations so I can grow. I've sometimes struggled with reaching out beyond the comfort zone, but I've found that when I do that's when I can grow the most as a person.
I want to write. And to write I need to do things and meet people that I can write about. There is no story without action and no characters without people. Real life gives us some of the best stories without us even realizing and I want to share them.
I want to learn about myself and what things will be important to me as life moves forward into this new stage.
Despite all these probably too idealistic goals, I really just want to have fun. I want to see cool places with cool people and see what life has to offer good and bad. I don't know whether I will get another chance to do something like this, whether because of future commitments or tragedies. I don't want to regret not doing something crazy.