Home and inspiration are wherever the heart is
This past week I found myself settling back into my daily grind after having visited my friends and family in the lovely, serene area of rural Southwest Michigan (SW MI). I’ve been living in Cambridge, MA for three years now, and returning from my Michigan trip this time really had me feeling like I was coming home. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll always consider SW MI to be my home and I always feel some sadness (and maybe guilt) when I leave MI. However, it was incredible to feel that sense of belonging and comfort in the city life that I made for myself and to think of it as home, too.
Change is inevitable in life. Growing up amongst corn fields and dirt roads, to now living as a young adult in an urban area walking 10k+ steps daily and eating kale & quinoa veggie bowls for lunch – Wow! Life can become the unexpected. Visiting friends and family this year made it apparent how we all walk our divergent paths, but can all come together to share our lives and stories. The love never goes away. I think this is important to recognize for first-generation college students who go on to pursue higher education. First gens may feel disconnected from everyone around them - from family members and childhood friends who haven’t chosen similar paths to colleagues in their field, in part due to imposter syndrome. As a first-generation college student, I have certainly experienced this feeling of disconnect for the longest time. For me, I think my enlightenment and acceptance of the differences between me and others (particularly my family and friends) was brought about by my practice of mindfulness meditation. I’m constantly in awe of the ways in which mindfulness has permeated my life and brought fresh energy & perspective with it.
My trip home not only gave me clarity on the changes that my life has taken, but provided a healthy dose of inspiration - one I hadn’t realized I was in the need for at the time. I always visit my middle school science teacher when I’m in my home area. She was my first cheerleader to encourage me to go into science, and she was there to guide me with the necessary advice about undergraduate majors and doing research throughout college. I was beyond ecstatic to show her my first, first-authored publication (for which I’d received the final print notification that week)! Her delight and encouragement remind me that I can do it (even though it’s really, really hard sometimes).
My middle school inspiration (left)
Fate smiled upon me on my travels back to Boston, and I crossed paths with my undergraduate research mentor at the airport! Seeing her filled me with a sense of purpose and confidence, with the memory that she taught me how to conduct basic chemistry research and nurtured my passion for science and research when it was most important. Those two women will forever be my inspiration to carry on in graduate school when the times get tough. May you all remember your own inspirations and call on them in moments when you need it the most.
Amanda Renee Clark (@ARClark16) is a PhD student in chemical biology in the Greater Boston area. This story was published on September 1, 2018, on Amanda’s blog, Mindful Path to PhD (available here), and has been republished here with her permission.
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