After nearly a month-long hiatus, I am resurfacing from the pool of transition to provide a brief update in what I have been doing. Transition is painful, and part of that pain is the feeling of not being on solid ground, of not being able to fully take in air and know where you are, not knowing where you begin and end. The metaphor of water is therefore a helpful image. To say I am resurfacing is to affirm for myself that “hello!” I am still here, I am still alive, and I can still swim. That is, I can still write. Specifically, I can still write academic prose (or poetry with academic purposes in mind) with the goal of working towards my comprehensive exams which I should be taking in less than two months (gasp!) (can I breathe?). Yes. That is still the plan. I also want to apply for a job that has been advertised–a faculty position at Andover Newton Theological School. Here in Boston. In my field. Faculty position in preaching and worship and director of the chapel. And I have two small children. And I’m starting to write my dissertation (after these exams are done and my proposal is accepted of course). (drowning! feeling overwhelmed again!!!). Hi. here I am. Head above water. I can swim. If I relax I can swim further and longer, but the trick is to relax.
I just had a flashback. Nine years old at Camp Longhorn in Burnet, Texas. On the banks of some lake, not sure which. Every summer we had to swim the mile. A mile swim! At nine years old! Maybe I was only eight. Caleb is nearly six and can’t swim. That terrifies me to think about now. We did all sorts of water activities, but I always feared drowning. But somehow I did it. I swam the mile. I hated every minute of it, but I did it. We all did. No one didn’t swim the mile, at least that I can remember.
Twelve years later and I’m entering seminary. I meet Lee Sun Choi on my hall who swims every day at the university pool. She tells me that to swim long distance, you have to let yourself float. Relax into the water. Stop trying so hard to keep your head above and led your face get wet. Turn your head to the side to get air as your body glides through the water doing an easy freestyle. But let your whole body relax into it and set its own pace. If your tense, you’re going to get tired a lot faster.
So how does that help me now? Another ten years have passed, and I still don’t like to swim. But maybe I should try it. Get in some pool, put on some goggles, and enjoy the feeling of buoyancy, letting myself be supported by the water rather than fighting it.
And maybe I should let myself be supported in my program. Stop trying so hard to breathe and keep my head above. Just float. Relax. See what it is I need to learn from these exams. How can I relax into them? Steady myself for the long-haul of studying. Work a little each day. Just keep coming back to it. Pull out the questions. Bring out the notes I have for the books I’ve already read. Don’t spend time reading new books unless you have to. Most of all, remember you’re not going to drown. Your advisor and other faculty members are there to reach out and help if you need it. But you’ll do fine. Keep up the good work.