When you leave a Goddard residency, you should be bestowed with a nice little label that says “Warning: I’m emotionally vulnerable.” And by “emotionally vulnerable” we don’t mean this lightly, we mean we are walking open wounds and the salt shaker is looming over our heads every step we take. I could see my roommates feet propped up on the couch when I walked in with my first round of bags. I was relieved to see she was talking on the phone and attempted to slip into my room unnoticed – not an easy feat when you’re trailing four days of luggage behind you.
Now I wasn’t praying for a cloak of invisibility because I didn’t want to see her, but I knew once I walked in the door I only had about a tenth of a second before I completely fell apart and I wasn’t ready for anyone to bear witness to that. I’d fought the tears the entire four hour drive home, sometimes losing the fight and simply letting the hot tears roll down my face, the snot drip down on my chin; not caring about what I looked like to what I imagined were horrified individuals who happened to pass me on the highway.
I once went to a workshop on using Gestalt techniques in therapy and my mentor posed this question: Why are we so quick to do away with our tears? We apologize for our tears, and we wipe them away. Why are we so afraid to just be with them? I thought of this as I snotted and sniffled my way down I-91 S. I rotated between crying and full on sobbing until I stopped for gas in New Hampshire and stood in line behind a 300 lb. woman with a huge New Kids on the Block tattoo on her forearm, and it was really hard to be do much but laugh after that.
Last night a friend and I ruminated on why our time at Goddard is so intense and we settled on this: We take the experience of 6 months and fit it into an 8 day span. Therefore the relationships, interactions, friendships, and the collective experience can be overwhelming. Residency crams every spectrum of emotion into such a condensed amount of space. As a graduating student, I was only required to be on campus for several days as opposed to the whole residency. Still, those several days felt like a mini-era or lifetime and when prompted to explain how it was I couldn’t do anything more than throw out disjointed adjectives that didn’t even make sense in conjunction with one another: “awesome,” “interesting,” “fucked up,” “amazing,” “surprising,” “fulfilling,” “disappointing.” Goddard, you’ve never been easy to explain to the outside world and you will always be an enigma to so many people in my life.
What I am struggling so greatly with, and the cause behind many of the hot tears, is what now? How do I recreate that community in my life? Goddard is my neutral space. When I’m there, I am untouched by outside and external forces. I only exist as myself, and I’ve never felt so authentic and alive as when I’m there. As I walked around campus for what won’t be the last time, but was a significant goodbye to a chapter in my life – I meditated and was left feeling that when I got back home today, things wouldn’t be the same. Something has shifted, changed in me – and although I am struggling to put my finger on it, I tentatively welcome it. I have known and accepted there are things in my life that need to be different, important decisions I have to make, courses to follow, and calls to actions I’ve ignored. I suppose what I feel, is partially that it’s time to get off my ass and defeat that cycle of ignorance.
I ran into my old alumni ambassador on campus the other day, he had come back to lead a workshop and we got to talking about what Goddard had meant to him and how it was for him in the aftermath. He asked me to describe how I felt about the void this chapter closing made me feel and I confessed I was scared. I told him when I got home I wanted to be very quiet, to withdraw from everything I knew, to get to my bare bones and work my way back into my skin. I told him doing so would make me feel empty and alone. Instead of telling me to perhaps have a less morbid reaction to the end of my Master’s program, he encouraged me to go home and sit with it – which is exactly what I am doing right now.
It is a lonely experience to come back, because how can people possibly understand what happens there unless they are a part of it? I’ve always said Goddard kind of reminds me of tripping. Now it’s been far more than a hot minute since I engaged in any type of hallucinogenic experimentation but from what I remember it’s really great and fun, sometimes it brings up a lot of stuff, then as suddenly as it began it ends and you feel like shit. I remember I would spend the days after depressed and wondering: Why can’t that be my reality? Why isn’t that what the world is like?
I think I’ve gone through 4/5 of the Kübler-Ross model stages of grief. I worked my way through the denial, anger, and bargaining stages in a 24-hour span but I now find myself at the tail end of depression and moving into acceptance.
While this writing may suggest it, I am not sad – I am simply allowing myself to grieve the process of saying goodbye to an institution that has shaped my life and changed who I am. Overall, I have an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the sheer opportunity to be allowed to become the person that I have and to have existed in such a sacred space.
While I wish I was sitting around a campfire being told what an Aries I am, and talking about Jungian dream interpretation while looking at the stars – I had to go. I had to walk away and I had to say goodbye. As I lay in bed trying to make sense of what this has all meant I know I will have to find a way to go on, to take what I have learned and go forth with my life. Goddard will always be such an important part of me, and I won’t shake it anytime soon.
To everyone still enjoying the beauty of residency, thank you for enduring this journey with me. I will miss all you strange and beautiful people more than you could ever know. Enjoy the journey because before you know it, it will be your turn to grapple with life after Goddard – but how lucky we are to have that to miss.