Wednesday, 5 November 2014

there's a storm brewing

The grey Edinburgh day matched my mood.
A grey mood, blown in on an email.
We regret to inform you that on this occasion your application was not successful. 
I have read those words many times this year. Once more was, in some ways, no surprise.
Still, there is no stopping the self-doubt, no plugging the hole as the air escapes through the sails merrily carrying you along and you stall. No. Again. Not good enough. Again.
And as this was the last scholarship application, life in Edinburgh gets more complicated from here.

It is an incredible privilege to have received the education I have - I have four degrees and a vocational certificate. It is an incredible privilege to have this opportunity to study a PhD at a top 20 university in a country not my own. Many, many people do not receive even the most basic education, especially people of my gender, let alone seeing the world and following dreams.

So I am grateful, and I hope I will continue to give voice to this story of the voiceless, in whatever moments present themselves, until they have the opportunity to speak for themselves.

But I will allow myself to feel the disappointment of missing out on yet another scholarship - and I have lost count of the number of applications I submitted in the past 12 months. This scholarship would have meant release from the stressful worry of how I would support myself. It would have meant full attention could be given to the PhD project, the very thing for which I have worked so very hard for many years. It would have been life-giving and energising, and could have helped bring out the best of me.

Without a scholarship, I worry that whatever work I will have to do to earn money will take away not only time, but energy, from my studies - and I do not want to waste this precious opportunity. Having to count pennies, I may not be able to travel to the USA for storytelling gatherings and academic conferences as planned - and the future career opportunities those networks may foster. Adding in work commitments will no doubt have consequences for travel - around the UK to visit friends, home for a performance, friends and family. And just as I start to find them, how many creative projects will I have to give up, now that I have less time? For I am not a person with endless energy - the black dog sleeping in my corner sees to that.

I know, it looks like I am, with all the myriad projects and commitments in which I get involved; with my multi-faceted vocation of storyteller poet minister, and the multiple part time jobs I am always juggling. This is not an element of my vocation that I enjoy. I do not like that I am always split in several directions, no matter how much I have learnt to gather myself together in the midst of the eclecticism. I find it terribly stressful to have to work part time and manage a lean budget in order to pursue the activities that make me whole. And though I go back there again and again, and though it can be enticing and creative and fun, most often I don't really like it on the edge. It is scary and lonely, you get forgotten and overlooked, and it requires an awful lot of energy. Which we have established I don't have.

But I absolutely cannot fathom abandoning my vocation. Gosh it took a lot of hard work, and the best part of a decade, to process the depression, to find my way to wellbeing, and grow to understand and claim my place in community. I will not walk away from it now.
Not even if it means going back to the edge - I was pondering the possible reasons for all the rejected scholarship applications, and most of the reasons come back to my unorthodox journey to this point, the alternative approach I am taking, the unknown, on-the-edge nature of everything I do, so it seems.
Not even if it means splitting my attention - it may be, in fact, that if I can find work in the church somewhere, or get enough storytelling work, it will ease the sense of loss I feel, no longer having a congregation in which I serve.
Not even if it means using energy I do not have - I am stronger and more well than I have ever been, so bring the challenges on. I can meet them and not be vanquished.

The clouds have not shifted from the sky above Edinburgh today.
Nor has the grey within.
I am still angry, disappointed, and just a little bit dejected.
There is a wind blowing, however, gathering the clouds into a storm, and that will water the ground where these seeds of confidence, resilience, and hope have been planted with my words - and with the sun, new life will grow. (And I am looking forward to showing the unbelievers how wrong they have been).


Heather said...

Here is a believer in you. Doing something new: you do it.

GlenB said...

Dear Sarah, How my heart aches for you even as I delight in you wonderful gift of expressing this time of storm. Loving you, Glenys