So I've been doing a lot of concept mapping this semester. I have one class that requires me to make a new concept map every week, and another class that it just helps to keep a concept map because it pertains to my overall research agenda. So as I was thinking of this blogs, a quasi-concept map just popped into my head. And now that I've just bored half of you talking about concept maps, I'll try and continue.
I've talked a lot about some of the life lessons I've learned and how people are often saying "You're so lucky!" to me about opportunities I've been fortunate to enjoy, so I thought it was appropriate to take a "big picture" view at my life up to this point.
So I set about concept mapping my (professional) life hitting the highlights and major points where I think that educationally and professionally I've seen intersections of hard work and what I am calling "God/Luck/Fate/What-have-you" or "G/L/F/W" for all of my readers from every belief orientation.
Take a gander:
Now this was really interesting to me on a variety of levels.
I first thought about doing it in response to the many, many people who are always telling me how lucky I am and how I've had so many great opportunities. I know that I have had some fantastic opportunities and there is a great amount of G/L/F/W that has come into my life, but like that great saying, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity" I didn't just stumble into these awesome opportunities, I had to work really hard! Not that I am taking offense to anyone who has told me that, because that would silly since the people who say it are my friends and loved ones, but to me it feels just a little bit cheapened to NOT mention how much time and effort I've put in to make all of this happen.
But as I worked on my concept map I noticed something else. I noticed how three people really stood out as being absolutely essential in shaping my life. Before I go on and on about these three people, I have to of course say my parents and the rest of my family have had a big hand in shaping my life as well, but as someone said to me during a conversation on orientation "ice breaker" activities, isn't that what families are supposed to do? Sure, some people have families that totally suck and I'm sorry for those people, but in my concept of what a family is, your family is your number one cheering section. I'd be ranting about my unsupportive family if I had one, but since I don't, just be assured that they are a constant in the background and I have already and will continue to write more and more about my spectacular family (and my wonderful partner!) as my blog chugs along. So as I was working on my concept map I realized that three people have really been instrumental in shaping my life and they probably don't even realize it.
When I taught Stress Prevention & Management last year we talked about eustress and distress and how without sufficient eustress in your life you also fail to thrive because you aren't being challenged enough. Emil Nagengast is probably the first person that I met outside of my safe and cozy confines growing up in Indiana that challenged me to be a better person and put enough eustress in my life to push me to pursue goals I never thought I'd even dreamed of having. He has impacted me so profoundly that I can truly, truly say that my life would be completely different if I had not met him when I did. I've tried to tell him this on many occasions and I know he knows that I have this huge place in my heart for him, but I don't think words can really describe how grateful I am to have met him.
Another person that has greatly impacted me has been Michael Reece, my current advisor. In some ways Michael reminds me of Emil, but they are actually very different in a lot of ways too. Michael challenges me to think about research and my career in new and exciting ways. I think Michael has had an impact on me in a more indirect way than Emil and mainly it is because of their differences in personality. A lot of what I have learned from Michael has been through observation and modeling rather than direct advising and heart-to-heart conversations (which is not something we do). Michael has created the perfect space for hardworking and driven young professionals like myself to thrive and grow as researchers. I haven't yet told Michael how much of an impact he's had on me and that's mostly because I still work for him and A) both he and I hate ass-kissing and I think that any mention of how great he is would appear to be such, B) he isn't really touchy feely and would probably blow it off although secretly I think he'd enjoy hearing it...which leads me to C) he has a big enough ego already, so I'll just have to hold off on it and pepper it in every once in a while once I am graduated.
Finally, there is Mercy Obeime. Like Emil I find it hard to put into words how much this woman means to me and my life. There is a very large (and informal) "Mercy Obeime Fan Club" out there and sometimes it is so amazing to me that I can call her one of my very best friends in the whole world. It's like I am the President of the Fan Club or something. People sometimes are practically dying to get into contact with her and have her attention for a mere 5 minutes and it is a rare day when I don't talk to her via phone, email or in person. The funny thing is, she is normal and down-to-earth and wickedly funny so I forget that she's pretty much a local celebrity until I see someone going gaga over her at some public event. I guess that is how people who really are friends with celebrities feel, although I have to imagine it is slightly different because I think most celebrities are a little narcissistic and self-involved and Mercy is not AT ALL like that. Mercy has given me access to some of the most life-changing events in my life, has showed me indirectly how to be a very classy professional woman, how to live your life according to your values and dreams in a quiet yet passionate way, and overall has been an awesome friend. This short snippet doesn't do her justice, but I just can't seem to improve it right now.
This was a good exercise for me personally. It helped me to appreciate even more how well my life is shaping up. I think that when you are in the midst of something (like pursuing a PhD) you get bogged down in the everyday hassles of life so it was really good to take a step back and reflect. I'm really happy with my life and I hope I continue to stay blessed!