Funny thing happened on the way to a secondary analysis this week - I was triggered about a thing I didn't even personally endure (and therefore wasn't expecting).
Even now, I wonder whether I should write about it or not since part of me feels silly and another part of me just wants it to go away so I can get back to work. But I figure if I were a would-be doc student reading this blog, these little things are the kinds of things I'd want to know.
I'm currently working on an analysis of Latino teens' perceptions of power dynamics and how they can be altered when a child has more English proficiency than their parent (particularly when it comes to health[care] and stress). Many of the participants came over to the US as children and we're recounting their stories. Simultaneously, one of our classes was talking about migration this week in a class that I was to co-facilitate. Somewhere in the week, I had entered a funk that I figured was because of end-of-semester tiredness. That is until I was reading through one of the stories about a kid remembering the hundreds of graves he saw as he walked for days to cross the border. And I thought about our readings for class and that included an ethnography conducted in a migrant labor camp with abhorrent social and living conditions. Then I thought about the stories I'd heard growing up about my own family's trips to the states. Especially my father, who is one of the central people in my life. And I thought about him coming over a decade younger than I am now, not knowing the language, not being able to get in touch with the family he was supposed to find, and not really sure what to do since he had just left his (possibly pregnant?) wife and baby to come here. I've heard his story a few times throughout my life about how some stranger came along and helped him figure out that my grandmother's phone had been disconnected, get ahold of their neighbor, and get bus ticket to get across the continent to his destination. I'd always taken it as a story of my father's perseverance, the ways that seemingly small gestures can change lives, and the divine intervention and guidance that contributes to my belief that my family is special. With the aid of an anthropologist I've never met and a young person who reminds me of the kid I used to be, I saw the other side of my father's story - how scared he must've been, how hard that journey was on him, how frightening the escalating civil war was that pushed my parents to decide to leave their home, and how helpless someone can feel in a new place. My dad - the man who so often in life has been my rock, my rescuer, and my inspiration - was once just another scared kid willing to step out into an abyss for the sake of his new family. My brothers who made the trip with my uncles when I was three and they were still single digit ages. My aunt who came as a teenager and talked about having to cross a cliff that had her scared for her life. Any one of them could've been lost forever on the trip and I wouldn't be who I am.
Then of course I thought about how I read and discuss Freire greedily and openly whereas my father went to hear him speak once and was scolded by my grandfather because that simple single act of listening put the lives of the entire family at risk. My dad's cousin who apparently lived in the mountains in El Salvador for years as part of the resistance.
My family and countless others like us represent generations of hard choices, lives lost, and somehow still enduring hope. The weight of it all...
I wasn't ready for all that to hit me at once. I thought it was just another week of grad school. Hell, I was watching Netflix while coding the teen's story.
Just goes to show how much other people's lives can teach us about ourselves.
This past week there was just enough of a lull in the insanity for me to delude myself into thinking that I have the hang of this whole PhD student thing. One discussion about manuscripts and funding later and I realize that was a cute albeit naïve thought, but it was still nice. The last few weeks of the semester between Thanksgiving and finals will be insane, but I might actually be learning to prioritize appropriately and balance work and rest.
Just in time for my schedule to completely change again...