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happy go lucky

I am happy, and I go, and, this morning, I got lucky.  Lucky how, you ask?  Well, in the organic process of coming to the conclusion of my dissertation, I was presented with the incredible opportunity to tie my research in with my larger position on sexuality, feminism, and the future of positive human interaction in a way that I had neither predicted or truly intended. 

For the entirety of this school year, I have occasionally been met with a sense of despair, frustration and purposelessness as I compared the work I have been doing here at Oxford with what I see as a my larger purpose in the world.  Surely, I have learned a lot, I have had opportunities to teach (and make an impact doing so) and I have gotten to engage myself in the community here in ways that have really excited me.  In my written work, though, I have felt constant frustration with the way in which the projects I have been working on often felt more like attempts to prove I am capable of conducting research than actually putting forth meaningful information.

This morning, I woke up at about 5 AM and started writing.  The words were pouring out quickly as I began to tie up all the loose ends of my research.  I hit my stride and found myself describing the work of a number of academics I have been fortunate enough to encounter during my education, and to describe my philosophy on sexuality--the model I think we must turn to if we are going to find ways to engage in sexual relationships that can actually fit into the contemporary feminist model, a position that necessitates developing sexual ideals which do not address heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality differently.  In other words, a sexuality that can be simultaneously individual and universal.  And the best part, I had the research to back it up.  I had said what I believed in, and had given a series of reasons why everyone else should listen to what I was saying.  It was like this "wow" moment in which I realized what research is for.

All through college, we pay our dues.  I have had a few moments now that I'm a graduate student where I've felt like I've finally gotten to a place where when I write something, I can see it being legitimately taken seriously, but there have been moments where it felt forced.  As I have wrapped up this paper, it has become natural.  I am no longer just trying to tie together a bunch of quotes from different books I've read over the last month, I am relating the larger framework of the topic I have now studied from different points of view for the last six years or so, evaluating a specific item within the subject and using it to propose a direction for forward movement that is fully backed up by all of the elements I have put forward.  I have had enough of an education, enough of an opportunity to explore these subjects, that I can take myself seriously.  I am not saying that the paper I am about to finish is amazing--I'm not the type of person who focuses much energy on the product--but I can sincerely say that my research process feels different.

Now, when I look at a bibliography of a recent book or article on a certain set of topics, I recognize the names.  When I pick up a new book, I can generally read the introduction and conclusion and have a good idea of where it falls in the spectrum of work on the topic.  I can write about people whose opinions are well respected in the field and know I've spent an evening dancing incredibly drunk with them at an alumni donors reception.  In fact, three of the people I've used as major references in this paper are people I have varying levels of "personal" relationships with.  This is what it means to be an academic, but also what it means to truly teach others.

I had noticed when I looked at the work of a lot of people who I seriously respected, both in the literary world as well as the academic arena, seemed to operate as a part of a community.  They were responding to and with the other great minds of their time, as close personal friends.  They not only knew each others work, they sat down and talked about it over coffee.  I know I'm not there quite yet, but I'm starting to understand that, if I stay on track and stay interested in this subject, that's a future that is very likely to be possible ten years from now.  Pretty soon, the work I am doing on this topic will no longer just be a one-sided process of learning.  I will be in a position to teach, to be heard.  As of this Friday, I will have completed all of the work required to hold a master's degree.  And I can say three key things about that: 1) I will have earned it.  2) I can be sincerely proud of it.  3) I can now (finally!) see how this step fits into the larger context of what I expect for myself from this life.  I am finally in a place where my personal philosophy can become my thesis.  I have finally figured out how to integrate my academic and my spiritual purpose.  I am exactly where I am supposed to be.