Looking back on this past academic year it is hard to make a list in my head about the many things that I have learned along the way while creating my final thesis. The main three pieces I have taken from this huge project have been, the connections made with my professors and educators working in Portland. Learning how to think and rethink the same idea many times and understanding there is often as much, if not more importance in the process than the final outcome.
Learning to make connections and work with people towards my final thesis outcome was an extremely valuable skill that I am hoping will serve me well in the working world. The relationships I have built with professors at Lewis and Clark over the past few years in the Environmental Studies Program were depend when I was able to gain their help and expertise on topics I was really passionate about. Throughout my internship at Growing Gardens I was also able to make lots of connections with garden educators in the Portland area, either working directly with them or conducting informational interviews. Overall in the process of creating my thesis I was able to meet people in a field of my interest, and use these connections to deepen my understanding of garden education and environmental theory.
Rethinking and Rethinking
Patience and persistence were skills I practiced and practiced this past year. Working on a thesis can appear daunting and overwhelming, but I aimed to work through the processes in as many small steps as possible. Trying not to cram the work into too many long sessions, I broke it up and let it rest for a few days at a time, giving me time to process what I had been doing. Coming back to my final outcome every few days allowed me to rethink certain aspects of it and see holes in my own work. I was able to understand that your work is never going to be perfect on the first try, or even the last for that matter but that is okay. I am hoping this ability to work towards a long term goal will serve me well in my professional life, not to become frustrated with projects easily.
Finally as I got closer to finishing my thesis, I started to worry about how others would perceive my final outcome. Having promised people at Growing Gardens I would share my work with them, I was concerned about what they would think about my thesis and how I had used their interviews. I wanted my thesis to be useful and meaningful to other people besides myself, having lofty goals of how it could change some of the practices at Growing Gardens. As I worried about these outcomes, I began to realize, maybe it did not matter. I learned to accept the bigger impact of what I had been working on for the past nine months was all about the process and my own growth and understanding. My final paper may not be read in depth by anyone, except my advisor but in the process of creating it I have grown so much as a writer and thinker.