One of the ways I destress is by painting. Sometimes I enjoy it as a solo activity other times I want to do it in the company of others. The process of creating something I’m proud of with my own hands brings me immense satisfaction. But one of my latest pieces was therapeutic in a very different way.
I came into grad school planning to expand on a colleague’s work studying a gene in gray wolves. This gene has a well known mutation that makes their coats black. Inspired by my enthusiasm for this project, I began a painting based on this photo of an iconic black wolf named Romeo. But as time went on, my interest in being involved with the project shifted. Eventually the scope of next steps in moving this research forward no longer aligned with my career goals.
I had to have a very open and frank conversation with the post-doc leading the work and my advisor about the soul searching that lead me to step back from the project. I had to make the tough choice to disappoint my colleagues to put my personal goals and needs first. I also had to face my anxiety about now actually having to work on sorting out what my dissertation might actually be.
Meanwhile, in the corner of my room was this unfinished painting of Romeo representing a complicated ball of emotions. But a few weeks ago I decided to face some of my lingering feelings about this research and finally finish this painting. I worried about how I would feel about hanging it up in my room and being constantly reminded of how that project ended for me. And yet I’ve found myself accepting that this painting represents what was a important chapter in my grad school story even if it didn’t go anything as I had initially hoped.