Complicated harvest

This year, inspired by a comment from my sister, I decided to toast a marshmallow for Lughnasad. We happened to have a bag of extra-large marshmallows, purchased for Horde Weekend (our annual house party) but never opened. My family all gathered on the deck just outside the kitchen, and the Wizard lit a fire in my small cauldron. The Samurai declined to indulge in a marshmallow, but the rest of us gathered around the tiny fire, two at a time — the Mercurial Maiden and I were first, then I stepped back to make room for the Wizard when my marshmallow had caught fire. I watched it burn, watched the flame slowly cover the smooth, white surface, while I softly hummed, “Keep the Home Fires Burning.” Then I consumed the marshmallow. Then, while the fire was still burning, I took the small bloodstone that has been carrying my hopes and dreams for 2011 ever since last Yule, and held it gently over the fire. I circled it around the cauldron three times, deosil, murmuring, “One, two, three — so mote it be.”

My harvest this year is…complicated. This past weekend, I decided not to complete my PhD program. After nine years of confused and conflicted effort, enough is enough. I realized that I had reached a point where I was really only still in there for two reasons: because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, and because of all the time and money I had already invested. Do I want a career in academia? No. I want to continue my work as a music therapist and an artist — in fact, I want to amplify my work as an artist, expanding into new areas, letting my light shine brighter and further. I want to remain self-employed, blazing my own trail and deepening my own sense of sovereignty. Do I need a PhD for any of that? No.

Someone from the outside might look at the shape of my year and say that I had a poor harvest, that my crop had faltered and failed. I disagree. Lughnasad is a time, among other things, of sacrifice. For years now, I have felt compelled to sacrifice many things that I love, things that make me me, in service of this doctorate. Even during the times when my progress towards my degree was pitiful — and those times were plentiful, I can assure you — I still was paralyzed in my other work, because my psyche (and my inner demons) knew what I was “supposed” to be doing. Now, at long last, it is time to let the big thing go, and make room for all the little dreams to be nurtured and thrive.

I feel some sadness, yes, and I can’t help feeling some fear about what others may think of me — but please believe me when I say that mostly, I feel liberated. Among other things, I celebrate a decision to stop the endless struggle for outside validation. I am the master of my ship; I am the captain — and the queen — of my soul.

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