As a graduating senior, I have find myself being called upon to reflect upon the last several years of my life. One such occasion was Monday, when I had to defend my undergrad thesis. "Defend" hardly seems like an accurate adjective as it was much more of a conversation dedicated to fostering my ideas and acknowledging my accomplishments.
My examiner arrived early and we built a rapport pretty immediately. She was engaged from the beginning. I felt as though I was speaking too much, but I pushed on, reassuring myself that I felt like I was taking the spotlight because it was indeed the appropriate time to do so. After a full lunch, we headed into the academic building to squat a room for the occasion.
Much to my surprise, many of the questions they asked directly or indirectly we about myself. Partially because my work is very important to who I am and what I am about, partially because I criticized myself in my work for not talking more about where I was coming from through out the process. For whatever reason, I ended up expounding on how my understandings had been shaped over the last few years and how the shifts in my own sense of what is important changed the kind of work I wanted to focus on. I nailed most of the questions.
I left as they deliberated my grade. When I came back in, they had written it on the board. It was anti-climactic. After having thought about all the ways my education has given me the space and support to deconstruct and recreate myself, the letter felt like a hollow representation of that process. What came next was the most striking phase of the process, as my outside examiner and the two faculty I worked intensively with stepped forward to compliment me. One by one, they told me how inspirational it was to work with me, how genuine my dedication was, how interesting and thoughtful my perspective. But then they moved on to say things I never could have imagined being said about me four years ago. About my perseverance, about my willingness to take risk. And it hits me that while I was busy talking and writing and shooting and editing, I missed myself becoming who I am.