My yoga

I have my friend Linds to credit with beginning my yoga practice. I was well into graduate school, and she and her husband moved across the parking lot from us and had memberships to the YMCA. Folks, they drove me to the Y every Tuesday and Thursday, so that Linds and I could take yoga with the silver sneakers crew (senior citizens). It was a perfect way to begin yoga because the teacher was really focused on alignment and it was gentle. We practiced there together until these dear friends moved away, and then after a Creepy interaction with an old guy at the Y after a different yoga class I stopped going to the Y.

I found my practice again at a studio in Nashville, dropped it and picked it up again in Chicago, and then found my yoga community here in North Carolina, which has been invaluable in this state finally feeling like home. But as much as the people in my community of teacher trainees and studio, what I so appreciate about my practice these days is the relative ease with which I can access it.

My mom practiced yoga daily for years before I finally got into it myself. When you practice something [mostly] every day for even just seven minutes—the minimum time our teacher used to define how we should think about our daily practice—your ability to refer back to it increases exponentially. Yoga is so much about taking a moment to pause and connect with my breath and myself that it makes a huge difference in my ability to do that, and get through the day with greater equanimity.

I went into my teacher training with the idea that I wanted to deepen my own practice and probably not really teach, but my feelings on that have changed, based on the profound change that yoga has made in my life. I am definitely not perfect, but I am so thankful that the emotional reactivity that I’ve struggled with my whole life feels much less a problem now than it ever has. After just seven minutes a day.

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PHinisheD

After seven and a half years of it hanging over my head from varying heights, I received this email:

2015-02-05 12.37.29 pm
Somewhat anticlimactic. I haven’t worked in the lab since May 2013, at which point lack of funding, opportunities to move into science writing, and Hubs moving to NC all combined and I left. Because I was just so close to finishing that it felt silly not to, I continued to be associated with my scientific work throughout my paper and dissertation writing, my defense last April, and my paper’s acceptance by a peer-reviewed journal last month. (It should be said that I owe quite a lot of the successful end of the story to the labmate who is co-first author on my paper and to my grad school boss). While I’m lucky that I could start a postdoctoral fellowship without officially having the doctorate, the unfinished PhD was ever-present in my mind over the last year and a half. I am incredibly relieved to be finished, but I don’t think I quite believe that it is over.

My adult life has been defined by being a graduate student, and I feel exhausted in the way that I imagine someone ending an eight-year relationship might feel. And the PhD process was so like a relationship. I gained friends through my PhD, as well as experienced great joy, immense frustration, and huge emotional growth. I sought the answers to questions like, can I continue to depend on what other people think of me? What do my values say about how I want my work and career to look? Is it wrong to put so much time into something and then leave it behind as it becomes more and more clear that it doesn’t serve my highest good? How do I define professional success, and in what ways does my personal life intersect with it? I don’t regret anything about my PhD experience because of what I’ve gained in self-knowledge, understanding, and experience. And in the same breath, I am so thankful to move forward, degree [finally] firmly in hand.