MFA Monday: Jamie Zahradnik

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Identity Crisis

There is something about curling up with a cup of coffee on a Sunday morning that is such a relief at the end of a long week. Before anyone wakes, in the stillness and the sunshine, I like to sit and ponder the effects of my week. Occasionally, I like to journal, jotting down my thoughts on conversations that never happened, dreams and imagery, and my thoughts on “grieving the loss of grad school”… wait… did I really write that? That’s a little dramatic; I mean grief? How about trauma? Nope, that’s even more intense… On this particular Sunday morning I decided to reflect on some old journal entries from my first year out of grad school, and sure enough, I had described my first year as bereavement.

It’s been four years since I have been a student of the SHSU dance program, and I am in my twenty-eighth year as a student in the school of life. I’m currently in the process of experiencing some real life grief with the recent death of my mother. So upon rediscovering this part of my life occurring directly after graduation, which, by the way, seems miniscule now, I decided not to judge myself too quickly, and to take some time to investigate the meaning of the words I had written.

I discovered that

  • Bereavement can mean “suffering deprivation or loss by force.”
  • Grief can be defined as “keen mental suffering or distress over affliction or loss.”
  • Trauma can be described as “a powerful shock that can have long lasting effects on body and mind.”

This last definition rang truer to me than any of the other words. Trauma is something I can definitely relate to. I have certainly suffered mental and physical trauma with the numbing news that my mother no longer exists here on earth. It has been an event that has permanently changed my immediate environment, or kinesphere, if you will. It looks different to me, and I also don’t react to people and circumstances within in it the way that I did before. In this way, it has changed not only how I perceive my circumstances, but also who I am in relation to those circumstances, which inevitably has led to a growing loss of identity.

I began to see an overwhelming reality. I was a person struggling to define myself in a new environment in which I was suddenly existing. I was suffering a major identity crisis as a result of the trauma of losing grad school. And what a loss it was.

As an MFA candidate, my kinesphere was one of space, time, and energy. I was given space – four spacious and luminous studios to create and explore movement, an office space to allow the brilliance to marinate, and a performance space where I could be seen and heard without judgment. I was given time – time to create and recreate, time to develop my thoughts and ideas, and time to discover who I really was in relation to all that is. Most importantly, I was granted energy – the positive energy gifted to me by my colleagues and mentors was irreplaceable. I definitely felt that I had created a bond with many of these people that would never be broken or changed… but it did change. It changed the moment I moved that tassel over to the other side of my cap, and it took me a long time to realize that this change was necessary for my growth.

All the space, time, and energy that I had been given was suddenly stolen from me, and I no longer had the right to take ownership of it. Even though I was told that I was always welcome to come back, I faced the harsh reality that it would never truly be my home again, not in the way that it once was. And so, here I was, feeling homeless in Houston, and looking for a new identity in my newly defined kinesphere.  Read more from Jamie next Monday on the Frame Dance Blog.

photo by Lynn Lane
photo by Lynn Lane

Jamie Zahradnik is from Wharton, Texas.  She attained her BFA in Dance from SHSU graduating Summa Cum Laude in May 2008, and her MFA in Dance in 2011.  She is also a certified Laban/Bartenieff Movement Analyst.  Jamie has performed with Rednerrus Feil Dance Company, and Psophonia Dance Company, and has most recently performed for local independent artists Laura Gutierrez, Brittany Theford-Deveau, and Rebekah Chappell. Jamie currently serves as a dance professor and the dance program coordinator for San Jacinto College. She loves sharing herself with others through performing, teaching, and creating.

Do you have a grad school story you’d like to share? Have questions or advice that you gleaned from higher ed?  Contact us, we’d love to hear from you.

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