Monday, January 10, 2011

What if...?

Sunrise by Georgia O'Keeffe

I’m going back to school. Fact. Not a What if… situation. I’m going back to school today. Last Friday was my last day of delivering education and today will be my first day of receiving it once again. When was the last time I was a student? It seems like ages ago. And it’s taken me forever to make the decision to go back. But I’ve made it!

You see, there was that feeling. Do you know it? That nagging feeling that compels you, every morning, as you’re driving in to work, to ask yourself: What the hell am I doing? And why? And when will I have the guts to stop doing this and start doing what I really want to do? And when you find yourself stumped… not for answers… but for the courage to take the plunge… day after week after month after year… while the tears are sitting in your gut like a bag of heavy, undigested bones getting moister and expanding with every passing moment and threatening to make your gut explode… when you’re getting ready to make that last left turn at that last traffic light before arriving at the place where you work and you find yourself wanting to make a U-turn and go back home… when this happens… you have to give yourself pause, and allow yourself this thought: What if…?

For the longest time, I felt like a clock that had stopped ticking. And I watched the sun rise over my neighbors’ rooftops every morning while fantasizing about what lay beyond my safe and predictable world. But I never allowed my eyes to see because, What if I see and like? I was living an easy life knowing my fixed future and dreaming of taking risky leaps but never actually taking them because… I was afraid. And still, I am afraid. Because, the other side of: What if I take this giant leap and land in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? is: What if I take this giant leap and fall and break my leg? But, what I fear more than falling is stagnating… and becoming cranky… and hateful… and resentful with the passing of time. I fear, more than anything in this beautiful life, being on my deathbed, and feeling regret that I didn’t allow myself the chance.

This is a world of sudden opportunities. And if you are too shy or hesitant or afraid to grab your opportunity when you see it… well, then. If you don’t open the door for fresh air, you become fossilized. If you keep trying to fill cracked glasses with water, they never become full. Exercises in futility become intimate territory. So I gave myself pause. And I allowed myself the thought: What if…? And I opened the door for fresh air, but a gale swept in and wrapped itself around me and would not go, even as I voluntarily tried to dismiss it.

And so, afraid or not, it’s time for me to sit on the receiving end of education, once more. And for the coming measure of time, I will be reading psychology journals and texts and tomes… and conducting research… and compiling and interpreting data… and analyzing and applying statistics… and working with clients… and pulling my hair… and writing papers until I drop… and writing… and defending… a dissertation. But, oh, what glorious joy bubbles inside my heart at the thought of it all! Because… I love science. And I worship the human mind. And at the end of the process, I will have my Ph.D.

I owe it to myself to do what I really want to do with my life. I owe it to myself to no longer be oblivious to my true calling. I owe it to myself to be as happy as I can be.

And I am smiling, with lips and heart and eyes. I am beaming from the soul out. Full smiles. Full beams. Without a hint of vacancy.

I’m off to my very first day of school. I’m off to the last leg of my journey towards becoming… Dr. Nevine Sultan.

And now that it’s out there…
Here’s to putting it down without fear or hesitation.
Here’s to making the affirmation and the declaration.
Here’s to opening the door wide to who I want to be.

Come in, storm, and sweep me away!


  1. nothing more rewarding than following one's dream... wishing you much pleasure on this journey!

  2. After my wife, my kids and my Mom have finished making me crazy, it's good to know that you'll be out there - able to put me back together again.

    But good for you - that you're following your dream. Go for it!!

  3. congrats my friend, you continue to amaze will be brilliant

  4. Dear Nevine:

    Wow! Brilliant decision. I am so happy and glad that you have decided to get back to studying. A Ph.D. Welcome to the world of learning, unlearning and relearning. I am so overwhelmed and happy.

    Sending you big, warm and long hugs from India.

    Lots of love as you embark on this journey. The rewards are just wonderful, by Jove.

    Joy always,

    You are simply AMAZING!
    Love ya!

    B xx

  6. WOW, all the best. But once you are into science, or into learning, I feel, you can never stop being a student.
    Though being a student in school brings privileges that we often miss, but still, life is a learning process.
    All the best with your Doctorate and, Bless You.

    Blasphemous Aesthete

  7. Here's to you, Nevine! Enjoy the journey!

  8. Good for you, Nevine! I know that feeling. People thought I was mad when I jumped off the hamster's wheel and took early retirement. I wasn't mad, just curious. I wanted to spend a portion of my life, being me. I didn't want to die wondering...what if? I've never regretted the decision for one moment.

  9. Fix some legs!

    Congradulations on taking chances. It takes a lot of courage. For my I'm always more afraid I'll get what I want and not like it than I am of not getting it.

  10. ahh...what a wise decision. I know it will be worth the leap.

    those questions are the very same ones I ask myself on my own drive into work, the very same ones that keep me up each night. almost there... just need a little push.

    Congratulations! I'm giving you a standing ovation!

  11. Yes! I know what you mean! And I totally agree with you! And yes, you will have your Ph.D;o)

    Gros bisous et belle semaine sous ta bonne étoile, ma belle****

  12. Good luck on your journey. I know the world will be a better place because there is a Dr. Nevine in it.

  13. I admire anyone that takes that leap and does something risky to improve themselves. I also admire you in general. If you keep this up I'll need a picture of you on my wall next to Gandhi.

    Kidding about the last bit, but not the first two. I'm incredibly happy for you and wish you all the success in the world, doc.

  14. Congratulations! It's the decision making process that drives us crazy. Once you've decided, you can let that part go!
    Good luck to you Nevine...

  15. best wishes to you Nevine,
    good luck

    and please
    keep writing

    esp. poetry

    [btw, love the O'Keefe Sunrise!]

  16. Nev
    not surprised at all
    I expect life to ebb and rush as whitewater from your each new awakening and you ain't much for dawdling.
    You'll knock their socks off kiddo!

  17. Shadow – Thank you. You’re so right about following our dreams!

    Lou – You’re too funny! I think that by the time I’m finished with everything I need to do to get there, I’ll be needing some help, myself. ;-)

    David – Thank you, my very dear friend.

    Susan – I am overwhelmed, myself. And I am overjoyed by your enthusiasm! It’s a very exciting time for me, though I hesitated and straddled the fence for such a long time. I can’t wait for those promised rewards, too. Thank you so much for your encouragement, Susan. Big, warm hugs right back at you!

  18. Betty – And I love ya back! Thank you so much, Betty. I really appreciate it!

    Blasphemous Aesthete – You speak so wisely about education. Yes, once we’re on that path, the learning and school just never stop. But that’s fine, because learning is a delight for those of us who choose to pursue it, long past the requirements are behind us. Thank you for your kind wishes. They are very much appreciated.

    ConTemplate – Thank you! I look forward to it all.

    Martin – There’s nothing mad about wanting to take control of one’s life and do with it what we choose to do. And once we’ve taken control, there can be no regrets, really. I feel even more strongly, after reading your words, about the decision I made. Thank you, Martin.

  19. Taryn – I know the doubt and disappointment that we sometimes feel when we get something and it is beneath our expectations. Yes, it is quite dampening.

    Deb – Thank you so much for the congrats! And… I think I can safely say that that feeling I described is felt by many. And I experienced it for a very long time. It was time to call it quits, Deb. It really was.

    Cremilde – Merci, ma belle, pour ta gentillesse. You are so very sweet and kind. Bisous!

    Judy – He he he… That’s cool! :-)

  20. Christopher – Thank you for that huge and encouraging pump. It’s great to know I wasn’t completely off the wall in making that decision. He he… laughing at the Ghandi bit. ;-)

    Pat – Yes, the decision making part was excruciating. But, it’s behind me, now. Thank you so much, Pat.

    Noxalio – Thank you for that very sweet note. And I will most definitely keep writing. I think I’d go mad if I didn’t. Yes, O’Keefe. She’s such a brilliant and sensitive artist.

    Rick – No more dawdling, no! I wasn’t thinking to knock off anyone’s socks, but now that you mention it… :-)

  21. Nevine, that is totally thrilling !!!

    Go for it !

    What an adventure, and I have no doubt whatsoever that you will go after this dream with all the intensity you have, which is plenty... Remember what I said about your energy being able to light whole cities, whole countries, whole continents, whole planets ? It's more than ever true...

    And if you can then in turn help some folks, maybe keep one or two from heading down dark paths that lead to dark places, then your pot of gold will be self evident to behold.

    Be well Nevine... I hope you will still come and visit once in a while, and still share a little of your... magical writing...

  22. Owen - I just returned from your site! And here you are! Actually, just returned from Round 2. But... thank you so much for your words that always make my heart glow with joy. I do remember what you said about the energy. How could I forget? And of course I will come to visit... and of course I will keep writing. But... I will probably come to visit more often than I write. I know life is about to get very hectic! But... in a better way than ever before. But... I'll still be here... and around! :-)

  23. Nevine and i also know that the longer you wait the harder it is to do what your heart calls out for and you Levine are so worthy of whatever your heart wants.

    I truly hope it gets...

  24. Nevine, this has given me such an insight into all of your writing! No wonder your words are such a delicate dissection of the human mind. No wonder your poetry is like a feast of psychological thought, each stanza a serving of the human condition. Because all along this was what you wanted to do with your life. This is who you are. Fabulous!

    I'm so happy and proud of you for taking this step towards being true to yourself. It's the right step. It's the true step. And I know that through all the obstacles and stress and fear you'll come out triumphant.

    Big hug and congratulations on fulfilling your dream, Nevine!


  25. i am SO happy for you, dear nevine!!! i know all those feelings only too well, having had them numerous times in my life - as a matter of fact, i am in one of those u-turn times in my life as i type - and i remember another of these u-turn times of many moons ago when, as a single parent of five small children, i woke one day and said - this is it - this is the day - and on my 32nd birthday, i quit my full time job, my girlfriend pierced my ears, i burned my bra [yes, literally], and i applied at the university for my undergrad degree - now, had i stopped to think for one instant of "how in the world will i make this work" i would still be at the same law firm doing the work of an attorney without the pay - so - i just did it - and those years were the happiest of my adult life - barring my children - never looked back - went out into the sunshine of what if and stepped into the brilliant white light of i'm doing it!

    just like you will do it - so congratulations again, dear friend - for making that u-turn!

    much love - jenean

  26. NEVINE!
    How much you are really needed out here. Your compassion, patience, tolerance, desire to serve, and love of people, combined with the credentials of a doctoral degree will make you, yes--YOU--an invaluable source of 'calmness in calamity' in the lives of so many sick Peeps.

    Mental illness, the oft-forgotten disease among us is sorely desiring your healing, understanding touch

    Please, PLEASE somehow keep us posted on your progressive journey to Sweet Doctordom! Oh MY! I am so happy about this...your dream coming true. The key to this whole happening is your WILLINGNESS. Blessings for you, Nev.

  27. it is already, beautifully real. you and time will birth is.


    remember to be in the becoming.

  28. Oh Nevine, this is fabulous news! Good on you girl!!! You are brilliant and your brilliance IS needed in this world. I can't wait to hear how this new journey impacts your world. I can just imagine your excitement. Transformation and growing is a necessity and it's truly a great thing that you *recognized* this need for yourself and for those to whom you will have a profound affect.

    Best of everything, Dr. Nevine! :)

  29. Hi Nevine,

    I congratulate you on your gutsy decision. I am sure that it was not an easy one to make. I had to make the same decision a few years ago.
    Your specialization, clinical mental health, seems to be a very interesting field but a very challenging one as well. I see that the mental health system is broken, at least in the US.
    This is my personal opinion. However, I am sure that you would be a wonderful therapist and you would be a definite gain to that system. We count on you.

    I always loved psychology but I never persuaded it as a career and instead, I chose another field to study.

    You will definitely enjoy graduate studies. I wish you all the best. Enjoy the process of getting there to the finish line.

    Take care

  30. My dear Nevine
    That's a wise decision and better goal... which I know for sure you'll do successfully!

    Good luck , my dearest!

  31. Sir Thomas – Thank you. That is a sweet wish and I always hope we all get what our hearts desire.

    Jai – Thank you so much for the encouraging words. Psychology and the human mind have always been a fascination for me. However, I never took that final step it takes to qualify myself in the field, and that is to complete my Ph.D. I must do that so I can truly practice this science in all of its myriad applications. But yes, it does bleed into my writing, too. I can’t help but think like my brain has been wired to think, Jai. I am just blown away by the capabilities of human functioning. Thanks again for your wishes and hugs back!

  32. Jenean – How I applaud you for taking that step! Sometimes, we are afraid to move for fear of changing circumstances… for fear of failure. But we fail more when we don’t even try to do what we wish to do. You are familiar with the feeling of success, since you realized your dream. We can’t be satisfied until we know we have at least given it a try! Thanks so much for sharing your story, Jenean. It has given me such a push forward, as I struggle with juggling time even more, now.

    Steve – I will keep you posted as I progress. And thank you for your enthusiasm. Sometimes, even after we’ve made the decision, we engage in self-doubt. Your supportive words and those of my other blogging friends are balm on my soul.

  33. Kim – Thank you! Such beautiful words… so appreciated!

    Calli – Oh, how I blush at that Dr. Nevine, as I am not there yet. But, I will work hard to make it the reality. I will keep you up to date on how things are going in my world. It’s only my first week into the program, but I am head-over-heels in love with what I’m doing and with my projected plans and work. So very very exciting! Thank you so much for sharing my joy at this decision with me, Calli.

  34. Khaled – It was definitely not an easy decision to make, but you are familiar with the feeling if you went through the same process recently. Clinical Mental Health is very very challenging, but I love a good educational challenge, and I also love to challenge myself. It’s my dream field for a career, and I don’t know why I waited so long. But, finally, the waiting went out the window and this new reality came in through the door. Thank you so much, Khaled, for your support. I really, truly appreciate it!

    Dulce – Thank you for the encouragement! I’m very happy to have taken the step…

  35. Re: The Naked Light 01.14.2011

    For 'truth' to be true, can there be but one 'true' truth? (I believe that to be so, as difficult as it is for me headache. Never had one before (headache!)...

  36. like a bag of heavy, undigested bones

    Love that.

    Hope you do not mind comments on here about your "Naked Light" blog...but you would let me know, right? No responses anticipated--grin

    Crying because of uncertainty, rather than detaching, or letting go of a finite. How interesting an observation/conclusion. After some thought, how I so agree. Every instance I'm afraid, terrified, it is simply fear of the unknown. Next time (today?) I cry those tears of desperation, I should remember this and an easier, softer way will ensue.

    We crave what we cannot have--all the way to insanity! I'll just award your doctorate NOW!
    At AA meeting this morning I heard that the funniest thing in the world is one alcoholic calling another one "insane"...we are ALL!

  38. Nevine:

    Came back today to read some of the comments. I was completely bowled by Jenean's U-Turn. I commend her spirit and her will.

    Jenean, I am glad to know you and read of your experience that turned your whole life anew.

    Joy always,


Your thoughts are deeply appreciated.