I can't say I wasn't warned. Good friends and mentors told me again and again that this PhD process would change me. It would turn into a scholar. It would turn into a teacher. It would help me focus my sense of religious vocation. It would teach me a metric ton about myself. I nodded my head up and down in dutiful assent with each of these warnings. But typical of such transformation, there is no way to prepare someone for what is about to happen.
Why is that?
Well, it's because for each person the transformation is different. All you can do is to say, "something will change."
This isn't some kind of crisis. It's a gift. It's an uncomfortable gift, I'll grant you that. But it is not a crisis. This kind of transformation causes me anxiety. It shatters and rebuilds belief. But it's not a crisis. There's nothing wrong here.
I had an interesting meeting with one of my advisors recently and he asked me a question about my dissertation proposal. He asked, "hasn't this been done before?" And the answer was "yes." It has all been done before. That's the problem. "But," I said, "the difference is that I have not done it before. This is the first time that I have done this. This is the first time that my particular perspective has been brought into this conversation." Then I added, "plus there's this whole thing about the Internet." He smiled and looked at me and said, "then I say you have at it. This should be fun."
The kind of transformation that I'm experiencing in this PhD program is rather unusual for me. I've gone through changes in temperament. I've made radical changes in my lifestyle. I got married. I got ordained. There have been lots of examples of change and transformation in my life. What makes this particular transformation so unusual is that my eyes are wide open. I get up every morning and I ask myself what will be new today. I get up every morning and I try as best I can to open my mind and my heart to what will come. This time I'm not fighting it.
I have no idea if the results will be any different than before. But the process is a hell of a lot more fun.
I am losing and finding all over again.