While on a long journey over a great distance, a young woman struggled with each step as more and more gravel accumulated in her shoes. Periodically, she removed her shoes, brushed out the irritating dirt, cleaned and dressed her cut and blistered feet, and continued on. Finally, she realized that she was nearing her destination, so she stopped for a brief respite and took off her shoes once again, cursing the small stones that cut into her bruised and bloody feet. Pouring out the detritus, she was shocked to see five small rubies fall to the ground and mingle with the dirt she had just castigated for causing her pain. Slowly scooping the dirt back up, she looked more closely at the precious rubies before releasing both the rubies and the dirt into a small cloth bag that she tied around her neck. Though she had not yet reached her destination, the journey itself suddenly seemed worthwhile. As she made her way through the last few miles, her aching feet pained her less, and her previously weary body seemed to weigh half of what it had just a few minutes before. All of those miles, the wounds, the agony, the struggle to put one foot in front of the other – it was all worth it. Without those experiences, she would not have held the greatest treasure she had ever possessed. For that reason, she kept the sand in which she had found the rubies too. It would forever remind her of the road to her discovery and to be grateful even for the painful experiences of life because one could never know what one might find in the midst of such trials.
As I began to fall asleep the other night, thinking about the past six months and all that I have gone through – the many disappointments, the fears that developed, were realized, and then overcome – an image formed in my mind of a handful of sand with five small rubies. One would not pour out the sand with the rubies just to avoid holding the sand. The more I thought about the analogy, another image came to mind, the one on which this blog is based – of a traveler on a long journey. I needed some way to reconcile my disappointment that my grand adventure in Chicago turned out very differently from what I had expected and hoped for. And this little story has helped me make peace with both the wounds endured and the lessons learned. Without such a trial, I would never have found the inner strength and resilience I’ve discovered in myself or recognized the strength to be found in my faith, family, friends, and colleagues – the five rubies.
My time in Chicago is quickly drawing to a close. I have officially passed my written comprehensive exams, but it hasn’t sunk in yet. I certainly feel a sense of relief and accomplishment, but I think it will take some quiet meditation to accept this as proof that I am a capable and competent scholar. I will need that confidence to carry me through my research, oral exam, and dissertation proposal defense over the next month.