As I sit here at my computer fairly early on a Friday morning at work, I am trying to decide how to move forward with my grant proposal. I know it doesn’t seem early to you probably, but normally I would just be rolling out of bed around this time. I can write with my head. My physics teacher in high school, Mr. Neff, was a scary and intimidating man. He was my very first swim coach for a short time. He is commanding. His height, his gait, his presence; all of it frightened me. And his obsession with physics, a subject I have never particularly enjoyed. He said something to me once that I thought might be the nicest thing he could have ever said. It was the nicest thing he ever said, at least to me. “You will write textbooks someday, Larissa.” He recognized that even then, I had a gift for explaining scientific concepts in a way that was accessible to the average person but didn’t miss the mark of details relevant and important to the question at hand. I was proud of that. So here I sit, mind devoid of ideas about how to construct a description of my research plans for the next three years that can be distilled into four pages. Grant writing is really a bummer. I don’t want to write with my head today. I want to write with my heart.
Sometimes, it seems to me that our lives are laid out for us beforehand. We’re just turning pages in a book, waiting for the afterword where we sum up all of our hopes, dreams, fears joys and, most importantly, our advice for others in a single page. What would be on that page for me? For you? I know what it would not include. It would not include the people lamenting the loss of a fallen hero. Because I’m no hero. It would not include a description of the factors that lead to my eventual demise. Because most people wouldn’t know what they were even if they knew me my whole life. I hope that it would entertain readers with the wisdom gained from a life well lived. When I look at my life today, I have little regret. Guilt is a ailment I’m trying to find a cure to. I have been honest in many respects. Perhaps more so in writing than I ever have in conversation. I have hidden things I shouldn’t have, but hindsight is 20-20. Part of my reasons for writing this blog is to share with you that you can get by with schizophrenia, that it’s not a life sentence in a jail created by your mind. The other reason for this blog is me and my own sanity. Writing is therapy. We all need to get our thoughts out on paper (or virtual paper, in my case) once in a while. Many of my dearest friends and family will never see these writings and many of you who do read them may be unable to stomach the contents or find them trite. But writing is my way of turning both the agony and ecstasy of my life into something beautiful. And it’s better accomplished by doing so from your heart.
When I’m feeling sentimental, I watch my favorite episode of my favorite TV show, “Vincent and the Doctor” from Doctor Who. I watched it a couple days ago and though I’ve watched it dozens of times, something really popped out at me this time. Vincent Van Gogh, as portrayed, was a sensitive man who was prone to fits of depression and anger who derived comfort and meaning for his life in his paintings. He was not mad, he was troubled by the blindness of the others he knew to the beauty that surrounds us. He was tormented by it. He was misunderstood. He was a beautiful soul. I may not have such a beautiful soul as he did, but I still feel misunderstood as he did. I’m working towards a PhD in nanoscale engineering right now; I’m living in a world where your logic and intellectual mettle are more important than anything else. I’d like to be doing more with my heart. I’d like to be writing full time about the things that are really important to me. Instead, I’m writing a grant application. Maybe the only therapy my constrained and reasonable mind needs is a vehicle to embrace my own madness. My torment. My soul. Where I stand right now, writing as therapy can only be a small part of my life. Everybody’s got to make a living, right?
Thanks for listening.