I am a force of nature. Those are the words that were ascribed to my character on the very first day of class. I wasn’t sure how someone came to that conclusion having known me for so few hours, but I embraced the affirmation. I knew without a doubt that it hit the nail on the head…what better words could capture my passion, my enthusiasm, my emotions, my righteous indignation, my rage, my joy and my exhilaration at the thought of being a part of this incredible experience. I immediately associated these feelings with my memories of standing on the shores of a pristine white sand beach in Miami, surrounded by clear turquoise blue water with white foam on top of gently cascading waves.
As I can’t swim, I was fearful of the vastness of the ocean; but for some reason I was drawn to be a part of the wonderful sensation of getting drenched with warm salty water to get cooled from the sun. I didn’t dare go beyond knee deep when suddenly I realized that the sand had firmly grasped both of my ankles as the tide pulled away from the shore, holding me captive in that spot. It was then that I saw the wave, at first just a ripple, then swelling in height as it barreled toward me. The others around me excitedly waited to jump as the wave crested…I was petrified but thought I’d give it a try. As the wave came closer, I felt the incredible suction under my feet and thought this would be the last that would ever be seen of me. I jumped just as the sand released its grip; I was amazed that instead of overwhelming me, the wave embraced me from the shoulders down, refreshing me while carrying me back onto the shore. It had taken me in a completely different direction from where I began. I thought, Wow – what an awesome and powerful force of nature! Yes, I’d like to be thought of in those terms.
Then, there is the other force of nature that is a part of me. Now that we are back to our real lives, away from the nurturing serenity of the residency environment, at times I feel like a tornado spinning wildly out of control, that is both random and deliberate in sucking up everything in its path and tossing it about. It’s chaotic and frenetic with no clear indication of when it will be finished with its fury. The unstable atmosphere converges as the cyclone whirls amidst its sister forces of wind, rain, hail, lightning and thunder. It stirs up without warning, so it creates an atmosphere of frantic panic all around it. When it’s over, the skies immediately become deceptively beautiful…if it weren’t for the destruction and debris strewn about, you would never even have known it happened. You assess the damages, let go of what you’ve lost, pick up the pieces that are most important and start anew. Tornadoes are what haunt me in my nightmares.
I think I’ll go back to the beach.
This was a stream of consciousness reflection that I wrote to depict my feelings after my first residency in the Cultural Sustainability Masters Degree program at Goucher. I’ve found that this writing tool has become very useful for calming my mind and emotions so that I can gain a clearer focus on what it is going to take to make it through this intensive program. Although written in literal terms, each force of nature represents what I have experienced so far metaphorically speaking. The exuberance I experienced during the residency is irreplaceable. It was a crucial part of establishing the foundation and support network necessary to be successful in this unique learning environment. I found the atmosphere and the people surrounding me so nurturing and encouraging that I felt invincible for those nine days. The thought provoking dialogue and introspective reflection that was a part of every class, every meal, and every walk has broadened my horizons exponentially. I am so grateful to be a part of this emerging group of cultural pioneers. It was a glimpse into my future.
However, this depth of interactive immersion can lull one into a false sense of security. We all had to return home, limited to sporadic electronic communication and interaction and independent study. It only took five days back in “the real world” to clutter my brain with triviality and to shake my confidence that my voice could possibly make a positive difference in my community, my work place, a cultural group or the world around me. I initially found it challenging to filter through all of the information, reading materials, discussions, technology and other resources that I absorbed during the Fall and Winter residencies, and the subsequent online coursework between. It was also difficult for me to process and compartmentalize these new concepts so that I could mentally retrieve the applicable bits and bytes as necessary for practical application in other courses and in real world scenarios. As an adult learner, I began to experience sensory overload in my attempts to balance graduate studies, full time employment and most importantly my responsibilities to home and family.
Despite my initial difficulties in adjusting to this learning modality, I quickly discovered what an incredible network of support I have through the MACS program. From the amazingly knowledgeable and skilled instructors/advisors to the wonderfully diverse colleagues from my residency group (and other students in the Master’s degree programs), I’ve found myself surrounded by a caring, intelligent and passionate group of likeminded individuals who, together, help each other to grow their potential in their cultural pursuits throughout the online and residency portions of this program.
My diverse background encompasses a lifelong passion for creativity, culture, and a love for inspiring others. Over the years, I have integrated elements of these passions into my educational and career experiences, whether in the arts, media, or most recently, the public sector. I’ve found success in each of these endeavors, but success does not necessarily equate with fulfillment. As this year I have reached my 50th year milestone, the MACS program has initiated a new chapter in my life allowing me to once again be passionate about my work, pursue doing what I love most, and to inspire others to do the same. I plan to take the knowledge I acquire through this program, blend it with my work and life experience, and apply it in ways that make a positive contribution to an ever-evolving social infrastructure. I hope to:
- Encourage sharing and preservation of family history between generations to promote cultural awareness, self-worth and social relativity;
- Rediscover, record, and give honor to little known facets of African American heritage, the untold history of people of color in the United States, and;
- Inspire people to live up to their potential by understanding their heritage, recognizing their achievements, embracing their passions, pursuing their purpose, and uplifting others.
As I think about how much I’ve learned and experienced in this first year of the program, I now recognize how each element will ultimately form the fundamental principles that will totally reshape my world view and how I choose to connect and interact with humankind. That being said, pursuing Goucher’s unique Master of Arts in Cultural Sustainability was a crucial step in establishing an educational foundation to propel me onto a new pathway in my life’s journey – one of personal fulfillment and social accountability. It was perhaps one of the most important decisions I have ever had to make in my life; I can honestly say that it was definitely the best.
|Carol Brooks is beginning her second year of the MACS program and aspires to someday serve as an advocate for creative placemaking and community building efforts by facilitating intergenerational dialogue, cross-cultural mediation and exposition of socio-economic disparity. She lives and works in Baltimore County, MD and has enjoyed a successful career in the public sector in the realm of Workforce Development, currently employed as Labor Market Analyst for a local Economic and Workforce Development organization. She has a passion for the arts, theater and dance, and enjoys inspiring and encouraging others.|