Higher Education: Gratitude

Barbara Jwanouskos is thankful.

As I am writing this, it’s Thanksgiving, so, of course, I’m reflecting on what I’m thankful for in my life. There’s a lot, to be sure. My health, my loved ones, the experiences I’ve been able to have… There’s one I’d like to focus on, however, and that’s my gratitude that I have the ability to take two years to hone my writing here at Carnegie Mellon.

I have no clue whether this choice will “pay off” in my future, but what I do know is that I have developed both personally and artistically while being here studying. I’m almost at the end of my second semester – the program has been a whirlwind, but it’s taught me so much.

I came in with goals in mind: I really wanted to understand story structure inside and out, I wanted to develop my writing discipline, and I wanted to refine my ability to translate idea to the page. I think it’s important in an artistic pursuit to give yourself goals because I think they help you treat the activity that you do with diligence and faith. Honoring these goals is my way of being in conversation with the opportunity I’ve been given – it’s my way of responding and working with the gratitude I feel.

These are the things I keep coming back to when times get hard, when I have a lot on my plate, when I am not getting the responses I was hoping for, when I see others succeeding when I am seemingly floundering. Because I have made tremendous progress in all these areas, and these are the aspects of my life that keep me saying that this experience, above all, was worth it. It’s really easy to get sidetracked and caught up in activities that are simply distracting. Having a holiday that’s dedicated to saying “thank you” helps me to see all that is positive in my life. And more than that, it helps me see everything in my life ultimately as positive and worthwhile experiences.

There are many ways up the mountain, and going back to school is just one, but for me it has been tremendously rewarding to be here. I’m also happy that I have that and the ability to share my experiences with my community back at home. I’m glad that every so often I have the chance to demonstrate what I’ve learned while here.

So, thank you for teaching me, for listening to me and for watching me as I grow and develop my ability to create theatrical experiences that move, transform and inspire. I am grateful for it all!