Yesterday, I received the wonderful news that my PhD award is confirmed! The above photograph was taken a few seconds after reading the congratulatory email from my supervisor. I wanted to capture in a little visual document a snippet of the much larger and cogent moment embedded inside our very ordinarily extraordinary co-existence. Just Lucy and me, inside a cocoon of Clement Space.
I am extremely relieved, and grateful. Yes. Gratitude is the overwhelming emotion right now. Where I am at present is merely yet another part of an intimate adventure that I hope somehow manages to emanate some oases of ‘shared wonderment’ along the way.
Scheherazade’s Sea 2016 evolved from Scheherazade’s Sea 2010. A progression and development that speaks of Becoming.
To be sure, a tremendous effort and dedication is required to complete and attain a Doctor of Philosophy degree. I do not make light of it, and I humbly salute all who have been there or are going through the process. I would merely like to add to the narrative my own personal perspective of the journey – that of one (me) autistic researcher. (Perhaps others like myself may be able to add to the conversation from this paradigm? It would be an interesting project indeed.)
For me, the most difficult struggle throughout this grand odyssey was not the work itself. The research and praxis – the commitment, the long hours pondering, crafting, creating and writing – were all eclectic components of a unified and truly exhilarating quest. However, the suffering and immense challenge was, and continues to be, that of surviving: living in and not being annihilated by a worldscape that is not designed to be user-friendly for the average autistic.
I owe a great deal to my academic advisors. Without their guidance and advice, my quest would not have been so graceful. Strong mentorship is crucial to any emerging researcher and art practitioner. For the autist, this is even more pivotal, because of our somewhat different way of approaching and imbibing the world. I am humbled and honoured at the same time to have had the very best in this area of need. Great minds, experienced professionals, who not only generously offered sound advice, but also understood and embraced my neurocultural differences.
In my monumental struggle to not be destroyed by the normative worldscape while traversing the somewhat bizarre situations constantly hurled at me by the grand cosmos, I was held together and oftentimes lifted above the floodwaters by strong and patient hands of friends and my one faithful sister. It is expensive to be alive. It is even more costly to have disabilities and be alive in an ableist world. I am indebted to these amazing humans from across neurocultural divides who have contributed to my survival.
And Lucy. Lucy Like-a-Charm, my Canine Angel, this gift of clemency from the universe, who stepped quietly and elegantly into my life and owned me before I was cognizant of the fact, who has become not only my beloved companion, but also my official assistance / service dog, and my Creative Muse. That she is a greyhound – a former racing greyhound who survived the barbarism of the industry – is not a mere coincidence. Lucy has introduced me to a world I never knew existed, and inspired a dimension of compassion and fierce passion that is now engraved into my existence.
Throughout this journey, one organisation has made a huge difference and transformed a simple canine-and-human relationship into an indescribable and almost sacred symbiosis: mindDog Australia. The dedicated team of Cath Phillips and Gayl O’Grady, and the amazing mindDog family, have played a vital role in our expedition, and continue to be key components of fortitude and grace to our existence. It has been an amazing four years, and Lucy and I are proud to be a mindDog team! Wearing her mindDog vest proudly, Lucy has graced solemn meetings, busy public events, private workshops, lectures (from both sides of the lectern), exhibitions, conferences and a plethora of adventures. We look forward to many more to come.
I had a thought to ‘celebrate’ with a little takeaway dinner, but decided this would be more fitting to the thematic material of our current libretto. Until another day…
Thank you for journeying with us!