Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Dazzled and frazzled

A new school term has begun. I just started my research assistantship in earnest today, and will be starting the ethics review process for my own research project next week. Both of my studies are supervised by the most brilliant, caring professor. I've discovered that it's not uncommon for professors at the graduate level to have it all: passion, brilliance, infinite wisdom and knowledge, matched with motherly nurturing instincts regardless of the gender of the professor.

I love the lab that I'm working in. I love the gleaming floor, the shelves of stuffed animals, the cupboards full of audio and video tapes and CD's -- important data from various studies -- and the bank of computers. I'll be researching the effects of a particular voice treatment program on the voice quality and speech intelligibility of children with Down's Syndrome and cerebral palsy. It's all way beyond my current scope of expertise, but I'm loving the potential impact of the research. I can't wait to dive deeper into it.

In the midst of all this, this building of new dreams and the welcome productivity, I'm frazzled. I don't feel lost any more, but am overwhelmed by a new type of worry. I just put in a scholarship application yesterday, but was informed that due to university cut-backs, my certainty of receiving funding was no longer a sure thing. I had never counted on receiving scholarships when I initially applied for grad school, but now that I'm living without a job and with all the expenses of being in school and being in a new city, the security I had felt in the savings I had accrued as a teacher has now crumbled.

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm here for the right reasons. Then, when I'm reading my textbooks or working in the research lab, and my mind's eye can see me working with children with speech or language issues, my heart skips a beat. If that feeling is not the indication of the right reasons, then I don't know what is. But, I'm scared. I'm terrified that I'll never know enough, that school will wear me down, that jumping through these hoops will make me jaded.

In times like these, I cast my books aside and decide to just live. Over the weekend, I went down to the Ice on Whyte Festival, an annual ice-sculpture competition. The artists were frantically putting the finishing touches on their creations, getting ready for next morning's judging. If they could put their hearts and souls into something so transitory, so ephemeral as ice, I can surely plug away at my studies and research. Because, ultimately, it all matters -- all of it, the dreaming, the imagining, the chipping away, the stepping back, the re-evaluating, the worrying, the creating.... All of it, whether it's for the few days when an ice-sculpture stands glistening under the winter skies before the sun melts it away, or for the graduate degree and the potential decades of a satisfying career, it starts with the dreaming. And if the worrying is part of the process, I guess I'll just have to live with it.


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