Higher Education: A Sense of Finality

Barbara Jwanouskos is approaching the end.

Thursday at 11:59 PM marked the submission of our screenplays to the Sloan Foundation competition. It’s the culmination of about eight hardcore months of training, polishing, and crafting scripts that take on a science or technology component and explore it dramatically. And while I am so glad to be able to put this aside for now (even though I’m still at my computer, still writing…) I can’t but help feeling a bit nostalgic and sad that this part of my time here is coming to an end.

Earlier in the week, the three other second year dramatic writers in my program (Laci Corridor, Jonah Eisenstock and Josh Ginsburg) and I all went to get our caps and gowns for the commencement ceremony in May. We met with the design and production team for our thesis plays, which begin rehearsal next week. More and more it feels like we’re checking things off the list and counting down til… DUN DUN DUN!

We actually have to leave school.

Gasp!

Don’t get me wrong. One of the reasons I chose this program was because it promised that you’d be out in two years. I said, “well that’s for me! I need to be back in the real world!” I was looking forward to working hard in school, honing my craft, and then getting back to the Bay Area to keep on working on new plays already! At the time, it sounded easy to do, but now, with everything coming to an end, I’m finding it difficult to not get swept with emotion over Every. Little. Thing.

Just like everything in life, we have to come to terms with the fact that, yes, things do end. We move on. People move on. The world changes, shifts, grows and deteriorates. It can be hard not to treat everything as precious when you see that end point in sight. That’s what I’m trying not to do right now, but it is hard.

Maybe it comes back to managing your expectations about a particular outcome. As if suddenly, once I’m done with this program this magical spark will be endowed upon me and I will be A WRITER. Like all caps, even. I think it’s helpful to look back and see how far you’ve come, but the end hasn’t ended yet, so there’s still more pushing to do before it’s over. That’s where some really key growth can happen.

I was doing all this google-fu the other day as per usual because I had to make a decision about whether to push myself to write more even though I was tired or if I should just recuperate and start fresh the next day. And somewhere in hopping from page to page in trying to find the answer I wanted (go to bed), I read an interesting perspective. That sometimes when you give up or stop when it gets really hard and you don’t think you can go on, you’re missing out on some a breakthroughs that can develop.

Certainly I have experienced that. I wouldn’t be here today if I hadn’t pushed hard in many ways. It comes up a lot for me in a visceral sense when practicing martial arts. There’s this whole idea I’ve been working with lately of not being afraid to get punched hard and not being afraid to punch hard. What’s interesting is that it’s actually currently harder for me to dish it out than to take it. At least from a psychological fear perspective. But in this type of training, even just stepping an inch beyond your comfort zone is a dramatic shift because it moves your fear barrier out one inch. Slowly it grows and grows.

I’m almost on the other side of the bridge and I have a moment now to look back at where I’ve came and to look at the surroundings. I don’t exactly know what the end point is or what that looks like and what my life will be like once I reach it. For now, I’m just taking stock in the passing scenery and trying to value it for what it’s worth. Then, it’s on to keep pushing.

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4 comments on “Higher Education: A Sense of Finality

  1. wleschber says:

    It’s an interesting time, endings. Especially when we are so aware that they are unfolding before us. I finished my bachelors not too long ago (late bloomer!) and during the last few weeks leading up to the ceremony, I hit an odd spongy, melancholic, zen state. It wasn’t bad. I was simply reflective and actively aware of the chapter close. It was peaceful and quiet in a similar way to a last walk through your childhood home.

    • bjwany says:

      Thanks for your thoughts! Yes, it’s an odd thing, isn’t it? I mean, I suppose it’s no different than being on the precipice of one chapter closing and another about to start, but there’s something a bit surreal about the acute awareness that the current way of life IS ending… I don’t know. I have no solutions (nor do I think there need to be in this case), but rather musings of the experience in general. Still, I wonder about ways that we can feel, as you said, a bit more “zen” about the whole experience… having the nostalgia, regret, excitement, pride, joyfulness, etc. wash over us without feeling the need to necessarily act upon those feelings… hmm. Anyway, just thoughts I’m exploring.

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