Monday, June 20, 2011

I Am a Wannabe Researcher/Storyteller

     I first saw this video of Brene Brown's work a few of months ago, posted by a friend on Facebook. I started a draft posting about it, then got sidetracked and never returned...until now. I opened my inbox yesterday and, wouldn't you know it, there she was. So, I watched it again, and was as moved as the first time and decided that it was a sign to share my reflections about this research, what my aspirations are as an MA of Recreation & Leisure student, and spiritual/academic synchronization. Yes, go make a cup of tea and come back...settle in and get to know me, friend.

I Am a Wannabe Researcher/Storyteller

     In the beginning of this video Brene Brown, as a qualitative social sciences researcher, speaks of the discomfort she initially felt upon being called a Storyteller. Rather she is more comfortable with the title Researcher/Storyteller. And I think, in my heart that this is absolutely where qualitative research is going. I know, at the very least, it is the direction I will be taking my research. Brene is one of many mentors I have adopted along this already exciting and mysterious path I'm on. Watch her research/story unfold:

     Brene's findings struck me right in the heart. And her personal story, how the research process and findings affected her life, is, I think, what makes her story so alluring. Asking people big, broad, open-ended questions such as "What makes you feel vulnerable?" is bound to effect change in self and in the participants. As a researcher, if you're going to ask the participant to open up to you, you've got to be prepared to hear the answer, and other peoples personal insights can be very enlightening, challenging, decentering, affirming, disarming, disquieting, expansive, etc...On the flip side, I've had participants thank me for asking them questions, because it opened them to an new understanding of themselves and their experiences. To be a qualitative researcher is to make connections with others, to build a trusting relationship with them, to be empathetic, approachable, and reciprocal in the sharing process in order to allow stories to be vulnerable. And I can't tell you what an honour it is to gather those stories, to be sitting across from someone and bear witness to their reflections! It's very humbling and I am very grateful to all those people who I've had the privilege in talking with.

          Reflective Practice
     In Brene's findings of the wholehearted person as courageous, self-compassionate, authentic and necessarily vulnerable, I believe she has shared something very intensely important with us. You've listened to her findings and can decipher how it affects you, personally. But on a Universal level, this is the value of research. I've had my doubts about the choices I've made, the ivory tower, white privilege stuff. I've felt guilty for the endless hours I've sat behind my computer and the never ending reading. Should I be out on the floor working with others right now, effecting change? Is what I'm doing really going to make an iota of difference in the big scheme of things? Does that matter? Or isn't doing what makes me happy enough to be effecting a change in it's own right? Is change even what I'm working towards, or can I accept things as they are, stop attempting to control and predict as Brene says, and simply listen very well? Then take those stories and reflect them back to the world, sharing what was found to be truly meaningful to someone in hopes that someone else out there might feel understood, connected, moved, challenged, etc...

          Creative Analytic Practice
     Fast gaining attention in the leisure field is creative analytic practice (CAP) including autoethnography, visual images, poetry, performance and experimental media...the goal being mindful, creative and accessible dissemination of a studies findings.  It really, really matters who my research is accessible to and those who participate in research should be able to see themselves authentically and imaginatively represented in the project. When it's presented in an engaging way, such as a film or dramatic production, it's much more likely that this will happen (Parry & Johnson, 2007). Emotional engagement on the part of the researcher is considered inevitable, and, rather than separate our humanity from our work, we "write ourselves in to our texts with intellectual and spiritual integrity" (Richardson, 1997). I think actively practicing CAP is a really important piece to becoming a Researcher/Storyteller. How we tell our stories is absolutely as important as the content.

     Ultimately in this video I've found something that so reaffirms the choices I've made up until now that if the sign were any clearer it would read: YES KIM, YOU ARE WORTHY OF DOING WHAT YOU LOVE. Absolutely I deserve to do what brings me joy, happiness, meaningful challenge, creative satisfaction and total sense of engagement. It makes me the wholehearted individual that I am. And absolutely I can do it all...from the literature research and reading an infinite number of articles, to the hands on participant research delivering Therapeutic Recreation programs in the field, I can move back and forth and completely immerse myself in those issues that ignite passion in me. Right now that passion is spiritual well-being and creating safe space for people to discuss and explore their spiritual selves, but I understand that will evolve and change as I evolve and change.
     I don't know, in this moment, if I'll plug along and go the PhD route. I've learned to take it all one day at a time and to go into each day with an intent to very aware about what I choose to study and how I approach every step of the research process, about how I choose to wield this amazing privilege I have. And it doesn't matter if it manifests change on a grand scale or if it gives one other person permission to be authentic, to follow their heart...I only have to be true to myself to contribute to the shift in global consciousness, and I find great peace in that knowing.

     Thanks for stopping in.

Parry, D. C. & Johnson, C. W. (2007). Contextualizing leisure research to encompass complexity in lived leisure experience:      The need for creative analytic practice. Leisure Sciences, 29, 119-130
Richardson, L. (1997). Fields of play: Constructing an academic life. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.