Things get personal

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The long gap since my last blog has been niggling at me. It’s not that things haven’t been happening, it’s more that too much has been happening. I started a blog about “impact” a few weeks ago that got way too intense too soon. Then I questioned why I hadn’t posted it, and who was my audience? I went into an introspective spiral about how the tone and purpose of this blog had changed over the last two (!) years. It’s shifted from a light-hearted look at a new university world to what it feels like to be emotionally invested in your research. It’s become very personal. We use the word messy a lot in class, that’s because this stuff is messy, it spreads and gets everywhere so I shouldn’t have been surprised.

In the last six months my marriage has ended. The course wasn’t the main cause, but it helped knock out a few foundational supports. Despite the fact that my ex-wife has been such a large part of this work. I’ve bored her to tears with stories and drafts, agonised with her about whether I could do it and drained our joint finances with school fees. I told my supervisor about our split, she said “Yes, that happens a lot with this kind of study”. I jokingly said there should have been a release to sign but I probably would have risked it anyway. It really wasn’t the kind of impact I had expected.

It’s been a seismic event; the ripples are still rattling the windowpanes. As we move into the new part of our lives my ex-wife and I find ourselves looking at what it meant to be married, what it means now. We’re trying (as many couples do) to remember why we were together in the first place, and we’re largely succeeding. We have new partners, we’re working out how to live this new way without regret or rancor.

I find myself looking at assumptions that are at the centre of my research question in light of these changes, what does it mean to come out now in 2018? What does it mean to be a lesbian outside the safe harbour of a marriage? What does this mean for my sexual identity? Anything? Nothing? Doing my interviews last year, I was back at the place my marriage began. There were echoes of it everywhere, the offices I worked in, the people I knew who asked about my wife and the boys, my participants who knew us as a couple for twenty-something years. How does this affect my data, I wondered like a good qualitative researcher, my strong emotions and this bittersweet sense of love and loss?

I figured, I can let this paralyse me, stop writing, wallow for a while. Or I can realise that this is all part of it. Whether it’s a job change, a child leaving home, the end of a relationship – it’s happening all the time to all of us. I remember hearing stories from our previous cohorts and feeling smug that nothing like that would happen to me. I forgot the fundamental rule that life is fragile, full of the unexpected.

There are, of course, no easy answers but I move forward, juggling this as one more thing. I want to continue this blog, but needed to be honest about where I am. I’m hoping sharing this will unblock me and set the stage for the next and final part of the process, writing up my dissertation. As always, stay tuned!