There are many things that we can learn from our childhood and adolescent experiences. As we get older, we often discover that our propensity towards wanting to be “right,” and doing the “right” things is not as important as actually committing to something where we choose to apply ourselves with the fullest extent of our efforts for a desired outcome. How are we to learn if we do not take calculated risks? How are we to discover what life has to offer if we do not explore our wildest imaginations, and “just keep swimming” even if we occasionally fail at achieving a goal?
Dory is one of my favorite cartoon characters from the Disney Pixar children’s film Finding Nemo because of her repetitive affirmation to self to, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming” despite her struggle with short-term memory loss. No matter what happens in the film, Dory continues to swim in order to support Nemo’s dad’s quest to find his lost son, and also helps in her personal journey of finding her parents whom she lost as a child in the sequel Finding Dory. Although I watched these two children’s films as a young adult in my 20’s, I refuse to be shy about the reiterated lessons that they have taught me that are resonate from my own childhood, which have shaped me as a person, college student, and future University professor today.
As a person, I’ve learned that you cannot let any one thing get you down for too long, or at all for that matter. You have to be intentional about finding ways to cope and manage life as it comes at you, and need to be deliberate about living in the now. I’ve also learned to be flexible with myself whenever I set academic or personal goals. There are certain instances when my research needs to be flexible due to demands of its audience, whether it be for a conference or fellowship opportunity. I’ve often revisited saved digital assignments, and printed articles from past courses to trace the topics of what might become a publication or abstract in the making. Furthermore, it is important to learn that you are allowed to change your mind about things, which is a notion that I’ll explore with some personal and colorful commentary in my next post.
Ultimately, the journey towards graduate school follows the trajectory of your own life circumstances, preparation, and goal-setting. If you want to achieve something bad enough, you will make the decision to pursue it, and then invest yourself in thriving in it until your tasks are complete. Someone once told me, “graduate school is a marathon, and not necessarily a race.” I agree with my good friend who empathized this point with me in a moment where I was venting about being overwhelmed with deadlines and demands in my Ph.D. coursework, but then I also thought about Dory. A little voice popped in head just as my friend finished delivering his comforting statement, and it was cheering, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.”