A few weeks ago I was hanging out in my sister’s graduate student office, looking at a poster of the various placements of vowels in the voice box. My sister is a graduate student of opera performance, and as such it is important for her to know the various ways in which the voice box works. The poster is also a teaching tool towards the voice students to which she is also responsible. Gazing at the poster, I realized that I had a rather empty feeling inside, a feeling that is somewhat unfamiliar to me.
Looking at Claire, I said, “You know what? I have absolutely no interest in that.”
“In what?” she asked, looking up from her work.
“In this voice box poster. I mean, I look at it, and I just think, ‘Nope. No thanks. I’m good.'”
She laughed, “Okayyy?”
“I mean, it’s just that I’m used to being interested in so many things that it’s actually a relief to find something I’m not interested in. I can look at it, check it off the list of things I don’t need to learn about and move on!”
“What a revelation,” Claire replied, laughing.
As silly as this sounds, it really was a relief to find that I could give myself permission to not take an interest in something. So much of my identity through school has been based on the idea of being a well-rounded person; an “outstanding senior,” a jack of all trades and master of none. I loved my work as an undergrad in Music and EcoGastronomy, two majors that, when I told people what they were, mostly elicited raised eyebrows, sighs, and comments such as, “Well those don’t make any sense together,” “How’re going to make any sense of those?” and, “What are you going to do with that?” All questions that were very understanding and helpful, in other words.
But as it turns out, one can be an interdisciplinary thinker and have focus at the same time! As I move into the final stages of graduate school applications, the moment when I have to write down my ideas, I find to my delight and surprise that I really am ready to focus. The beauty in that is that it seems I’m beginning to learn how to let things go. I used to think I needed to be able to do and know everything for myself; but as it turns out, there are a lot of us human beings here on earth, and a lot of them are just as or more capable than I. We can rely on each other. So while I focus in my mission into my little niche, I can trust that someone else is filling another niche in our systems of human thought, and together, we make it work.
Thanks for reading my deep into grad school application ramblings. We’re deeply in it now, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, and I hope to be back to my sunny adventure writings soon enough.